How you’re protected while pregnant or on parental leave
Protection from being dismissed
Your employer can’t fire you for being pregnant, for applying for parental leave, or for being on parental leave.
What if my pregnancy prevents me doing my job?
If your pregnancy prevents you doing your job properly or adequately, your employer can transfer you temporarily to another job. You can’t be fired for being pregnant.
If no other suitable work is found, your employer can require you to start your parental leave early. Even if this is more than six weeks before your baby’s expected due date, you’ll still be entitled to 12 weeks’ primary carer’s leave after your baby is born, and your entitlement to extended parental leave also won’t be reduced.
What happens to my job if I’m on parental leave?
This depends on how long you’re on leave for:
- Leave for four weeks or less – If you’re taking parental leave for four weeks or less, and it’s the first period of leave you’ve taken for this particular child, the law assumes your employer is able to keep your job open, unless the employer can prove that your position has become redundant (for redundancies, see “Leaving or losing your job” in the chapter “Starting and leaving a job”).
- Leave for more than four weeks – If you’re taking parental leave for more than four weeks, the law assumes your employer is able to keep your job open, unless they can prove:
- that it’s not reasonable to get a temporary replacement because you occupied a key position in your employer’s business, or
- that your position has become redundant.
Note: When an employee is on parental leave, a replacement employee can be hired on a temporary basis. They must be told that the position is temporary.
What if I decide not to go back to work?
If your job has been kept open but at the end of the leave period you don’t return to work, the law treats your employment as having ended at the start of the leave period.
What happens if my employer can’t keep my job open?
If your employer notifies you that your job can’t be kept open during your parental leave, they must give you a preference for re-employment after the parental leave finishes. This means that during the six months (26 weeks) after your leave they must give you preference over other applicants for any position that’s vacant and that’s substantially similar to your old position.
Can I be made redundant while I’m on parental leave?
Yes. However, if you challenge the decision the employer must prove that the redundancy situation arose after they notified you (in response to your original parental leave notice) that your position could be kept open (see “Notifying your employer that you want to take parental leave” above, under “Overview of your parental leave rights”). Your employer must also prove that there was no prospect they could appoint you to a vacant position that was substantially similar to your old job.
Your employer will also have to meet the usual requirements for any redundancy – that is, the decision and the decision-making process must have been fair and reasonable. The requirements for a fair process include, for example, consulting with you and giving you a chance to have input into the decision. (For redundancies, see “Leaving or losing your job” in the chapter “Starting and leaving a job”.)