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Hina Belitz

Partner in Employment, Excello Law

Quotation Marks
Case law is of limited assistance on the issue of an alternative role for women on maternity leave

Government proposals for women’s rights in the workplace: what are the key practical considerations?

Government proposals for women’s rights in the workplace: what are the key practical considerations?


Hina Belitz details the latest proposals and the issues surrounding women's employment rights

Being a female lawyer, mother and an expert in employment law, I am always looking to support women’s rights in the workplace. Over 20 years in this area I have seen case law and legislation extend rights and support in amazing ways, such as maternity, discrimination and harassment, among others, and am pleased to see further forthcoming changes in this area.

Potential changes include extensions to the time periods women can claim redundancy support and an expansion of the law surrounding support after work-based sexual harassment. But what are the key practical considerations for women at work? This article sets out some thoughts.

Maternity and redundancy on the ground

The Labour Party-led maternity bill, also known as the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill (currently at the House of Lords stage), will extend the timeline of protection afforded to women on maternity leave. This is a tremendous change which recognises the unique position of women returning from maternity leave, but what does this protection (the Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations 1999 (MAPLE)) actually offer? Regulation 10 of MAPLE includes the right for an individual on maternity or paternity leave to be offered a ‘suitable alternative role’ if one is available in a redundancy situation, before other candidates. In practice, there are issues with this rule.  Employee mothers on maternity leave currently face situations where they receive word of potential redundancy, but are often not, due to their maternity status, involved in the company enough to truly understand whether any posited alternative roles are ‘suitable’ for them. Similarly, a well-advised employer will ensure that during the relevant redundancy consultation process, the ‘alternative role’ (if there is one) is in the early stages of development, so not quite ‘crystallised’ and therefore not applicable under the regulations. In such circumstances, this protection becomes meaningless where a time-limited settlement agreement is offered as an alternative. Does a woman wait to see if a job is suitable/desirable and lose out on a pay off, or does she take the path of certainty and leave under a settlement agreement? Case law is of limited assistance on the issue of an alternative role for women on maternity leave.

Budget extends financial support for working parents

We saw in Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt’s spring budget a massive announcement that the 30 hours per week free childcare for working parents in England will be expanded to cover one- and two-year-old children as well as the three- and four-year-olds it currently applies to. Since it is often when mothers return to work that parents end up looking for childcare support and often the mother in a family who, perhaps, decides against returning to work if costs prevent it, this is an interesting issue. Whilst this announcement should support women getting ‘back to work’ (aligning with the ‘theme’ of this budget), there are a few practical issues to consider. Firstly, the scheme will only be implemented fully by 2025 with details surrounding funding murky at best.

Similarly, encouraging women to return to work with children at such a young age should be met with conscious decisions from employers across the UK to be understanding and amenable to flexible working/support arrangements in the knowledge that these mothers have very young children at home. Only if accompanied by flexibility will childcare provisions allow women to flourish both in working life and early motherhood. As recently as last week, I managed the resignation and exit of a mother of three from a household name company. She had worked there for years and although the employer claimed they had done ‘all they could’ to support her, the fact was they were not prepared to commit to the flexibility requests she needed to support her young children.


Employers need to question whether an assertion that they have done ‘all they can’ is really the case; has every avenue been explored to support the woman in the workplace? Statistics suggest not. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in 2022 confirmed that one solution, ‘job shares’, which can be extremely helpful in early years of motherhood, were only utilised by 0.3 per cent of UK workers and that this proportion is declining.

From these cases, and the many similar ones I see on a regular basis, it is clear women’s employment rights need to be holistically managed and account taken of the practical realities of parenthood for women.

Hina Belitz is a partner and specialist employment lawyer at Excello Law