Redundancy and dismissal during pregnancy and maternity leave

Redundancy during pregnancy

If an employee’s position is made redundant before her ‘qualifying week’ (the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth) she will not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) but may be able to claim Maternity Allowance from JobCentre Plus. If she is made redundant in or after the qualifying week and she meets the qualifying conditions for SMP, she is entitled to receive SMP for the full 39 week period.

An employee who is made redundant during her pregnancy will be entitled to any redundancy and/or notice pay that she qualifies for.

It is unlawful to select a woman for redundancy because she is pregnant. She may have a claim for unfair dismissal and sex discrimination, irrespective of her length of service.

Back to top

Redundancy during maternity leave

If an employee’s position is made redundant during Ordinary Maternity Leave or Additional Maternity Leave, she is entitled to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy, where one is available. This includes a vacancy with an associated employer or with a successor to the original employer. The new contract must be offered before the end of the original contract and it must take effect immediately on the ending of the original contract.

The new contract must be such that:

  • the work to be done by the employee is both suitable and appropriate for her to do in the circumstances
  • the terms and conditions of her employment are not substantially less favourable to her than if she had continued to be employed under the original contract.

It is important to note that an employee on maternity leave has a right to be offered any suitable alternative vacancies that exist. She should be offered it before other employees and does not have to attend interviews or selection procedures. This special protection is provided for a woman on maternity leave as she may be about to give birth, may have a small baby to look after or may have been absent from the workplace for some time.

If you offer the employee a suitable alternative vacancy and she unreasonably refuses it, she may forfeit her right to a redundancy payment.

The employee must be consulted where there is a potential redundancy situation and a fair procedure (taking into account any applicable statutory dispute resolution procedure) must be followed, notwithstanding the employee’s absence on maternity leave.

It is strongly recommended, if an employee’s position is to be made redundant, that you seek more detailed information and speaks with Acas.

An employee must not be selected for redundancy for a reason connected to her pregnancy, the birth of her child or maternity leave. If you do not establish a fair reason for the employee’s dismissal, you may face an unfair dismissal and sex discrimination claim, irrespective of the employee’s length of service. 

Back to top

Redundancy and notice pay

If an employee is to be dismissed by reason of redundancy during pregnancy or maternity leave, she should receive redundancy payment in the normal way. This means statutory redundancy pay and any applicable contractual redundancy pay. Any time spent by the employee on maternity leave, whether Ordinary Maternity Leave or Additional Maternity Leave, should be counted as continuous service when assessing her length of service for the purpose of calculating her Statutory Redundancy Payment. To calculate the amount of Statutory Redundancy Pay employers can contact the BERR Redundancy Payments Helpline on 0845 145 0004 or see the redundancy payments calculator on the Business Link website

An employee who is dismissed by reason of redundancy during pregnancy or maternity leave is entitled to be given notice if she has been in her job for at least one month. The notice period will depend on the contract of employment. Employees are entitled to a minimum statutory notice period of one week’s notice after one month’s service and after two years’ service, a week’s notice for each year of employment, up to a maximum of 12 weeks. If the contract of employment provides for notice of at least a week more than the statutory minimum notice period, the statutory provisions do not apply.

An employee is entitled to receive contractual notice pay during pregnancy and may be entitled to receive it during maternity leave, depending on the terms of the contract. It may be unlawful to refuse to pay notice pay during a woman’s paid maternity leave (i.e. the 39 week SMP period) and possibly throughout maternity leave. You should seek further advice from Acas. If the employee is entitled to receive notice pay under the statutory provisions, she is entitled to receive it during pregnancy and maternity leave. You may offset any payments of SMP against statutory notice pay.

For information on notice pay see Business Link (England and Wales)  and Business Gateway (Scotland).

The employee must also be paid any outstanding holiday pay.

An employee who has qualified for SMP should continue to be paid SMP for the full 39 week period even if she is made redundant and you will be reimbursed by HM Revenue and Customs.

For an interactive tool to calculate the statutory redundancy pay due to your employee, see Business Link (England and Wales) and Business Gateway (Scotland).

Back to top

Dismissal during maternity leave

If an employee is dismissed during maternity leave (including if she is dismissed by reason of redundancy), she must be provided with a written statement of the reasons for her dismissal, whether or not she requests such a statement.

An employee must not be dismissed because she has given birth. She must also not be dismissed because she has taken maternity leave, or because she has availed herself of any of the benefits of Ordinary Maternity Leave. If dismissed for such a reason, an employee may have an unfair dismissal claim. This applies irrespective of the employee’s length of service.

The employee should be paid her full Statutory Maternity Pay entitlement once she has qualified for it. She should continue to be paid Statutory Maternity Pay even if dismissed.

Back to top

Last Updated: 06 Oct 2009