Parents face unfair redundancy

Targeting parents and those starting a family for redundancy is unlawful. Our research highlights a shocking number of unfair redundancy cases.

29 March 2021

Mother and daughter looking at family photo album

How common is it for parents to be unfairly selected for redundancy?

Our research shows that 1 in 6 UK workers made redundant in the last year believe they were unfairly selected for being a parent. Even before potential redundancies are disclosed to staff, parental discrimination in the workplace is a prominent issue as parents said they already felt singled out or treated differently for having children, with 30 per cent under suspicion that their dedication to the job was questioned.

When conducting the selection process for redundancies, employers must take special considerations to reduce disadvantages experienced through unfavourable treatment, victimisation, and discrimination. Despite this, our research shows that 33 per cent of those made redundant said their bosses confirmed that their status as a parent, or another element of their identity, was the reasoning behind their termination of employment.

Parents aren’t the only group who feel targeted as a further one in ten believe that they were chosen for redundancy due to being pregnant or because their bosses believed they were likely to start a family.

With employees concerned about the legality of their dismissal, what legal protection do they have to challenge this decision?

Why has redundancy become a growing issue?

Since March 2020 parents have begun dealing with the challenge of homeschooling their children. Employers often wrongly make the assumption that parents with childcare responsibilities cannot dedicate themselves fully to their employment. Despite any concerns bosses may have about this potential distraction, 51 per cent of employees said they were still meeting targets at work, with some even noting an improvement in performance.

Even though performance reviews, feedback, and target results had shown substantial achievements, those with children at home faced complaints about their performance from their bosses, with some even being told that being a parent risked their job security.

With a number of employers choosing to furlough staff affected by school closures, many fear for their job security upon return to work. Employers are also concerned about the uncertainties they face due to the pandemic, with many claiming they could only pay the statutory minimum redundancy entitlement package as caution.

Is it legal to select someone for redundancy for this reason?

Under The Equality Act 2010 dismissals because of any of the nine protected characteristics would amount to discrimination. These include pregnancy and maternity, age, and sex. Anyone experiencing unfavourable treatment due to one of these characteristics, such as being made redundant, has the right to claim for discrimination against their employer.

An employer who openly discloses their selection of a woman for redundancy due to childcare responsibilities or suspicion of a woman soon to start a family may amount to indirect sex discrimination. Those women facing redundancy due to being pregnant or on maternity leave could also have a case for pregnancy and maternity discrimination. Often the behaviour will be more subtle and an employee may have valid concerns that, behind the scenes, they have been singled out for a potentially discriminatory reason.

Employers have a duty to carry out a fair and objective selection process concerning redundancies. Sex, gender, or life-cycle stage should not be considered as part of their decision.

What can you do if you feel you have been unfairly made redundant?

No one should feel they have to choose between their job and family. If you have been placed at risk of redundancy, you should take legal advice on your options. You have the right not to be discriminated against regardless of the length of your employment and after two years you have the right not to be unfairly dismissed.

Redundancy consultation meetings with your employer can be extremely useful to understand their reasoning behind the decision and whether this can be classified as unfair or discriminatory.

As employment law experts, we’re here to advise you on every step of the redundancy procedure and offer our support if you’re facing any form of parental discrimination. To speak to one of our employment specialists about your redundancy rights, call us on 0330 041 5869 or request a call back.

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