I think I am being made redundant because of my pregnancy. Is this allowed?
If you can show that there is not a genuine redundancy situation and you are being made redundant because of your pregnancy or pregnancy-related sickness and can show that there is not a genuine redundancy situation, this would be unlawful pregnancy discrimination.
The Equality Commission has developed guidance for employers on managing redundancy for pregnant employees and those on maternity leave:
What should I do if I am told that I might be made redundant?
It is advisable to ask the reason why you might be made redundant, to see if you can give reasons why you should not be made redundant. You could ask questions about:
why there is a redundancy situation
whether other employees are at risk; if there have been a lot of redundancies your employer is more likely to be able to show that they were genuine
if you are the only employee to be made redundant, the reason you were selected and what consideration was given to putting other employees at risk of redundancy
when your employer first considered there was a redundancy situation
who was in the selection pool
the selection criteria and how they were measured
your score and how it compared to others put at risk
whether any employees (at risk of redundancy) have been offered alternative jobs, with details of the jobs. If any of the jobs would have been suitable for you, ask if you were considered and, if not, why not.
Is my employer legally required to consult me about the redundancies?
Yes, your employer must consult you in the same way as all other employees and give as much warning as possible.
If you are off work with pregnancy-related illness your employer must still consult you about a redundancy situation. You could be consulted by a telephone call or your employer may visit you at home if you agree. You must be given the same information as other employees.
Your employer must consult you about:
reasons for redundancy and the posts affected
considering alternatives to redundancy, such as voluntary redundancies, or reduced working hours
the selection criteria for those employees at risk of redundancy
the way in which the employee’s redundancy selection assessment was carried out
any suitable alternative work.
If you are not told about a suitable alternative job because you are off work with pregnancy-related illness, this is likely to be pregnancy discrimination
How must my employer choose who should be made redundant?
Your employer must decide which employees are doing similar work. These are the employees who should be considered for redundancy. Your employer should then decide what selection criteria to follow to decide which employees to make redundant.
What criteria must my employer use to select the staff for redundancy?
The criteria should be objective and measurable. Typical criteria include:
individual skills, qualifications
performance or aptitude for work
attendance and absence record
Should my employer take my pregnancy into account during the redundancy selection process?
You must not be disadvantaged by your pregnancy, pregnancy-related illness or the facts that you are about to go on maternity leave. For example:
If sickness absence is taken into account, any pregnancy-related absence must be ignored.
You must not be marked down against any assessment criteria because you have few clients or customers because of your pregnancy and/or because you are about to go on leave.
Your performance must not be marked down because of pregnancy-related illness. For example, if you could not meet your targets because of pregnancy or a pregnancy-related illness, then selecting you for redundancy on this basis is likely to be pregnancy discrimination.
Should I be offered a suitable alternative job even if I am about to go on maternity leave?
Yes. If the reason you are not offered a suitable alternative job is because you cannot start it for a number of months because of your maternity leave, this would be maternity discrimination.
Are my redundancy rights different while I am pregnant or on maternity leave?
Yes. If you are made redundant before you go on maternity leave you do not have an automatic right to be offered any suitable alternative work in preference to other employees. You must be considered for alternative work like other employees. But, if you are made redundant while you are on maternity leave, you must be offered any suitable alternative vacancy first – in preference to other redundant employees who are not on maternity leave.
What is suitable alternative work?
The alternative job must be suitable and appropriate for you in the circumstances. This means it must be no worse than your previous job in relation to location, terms, conditions and status.
If you are offered a job at a different location and this means additional childcare and travelling costs, it may not be suitable. This means you could reject the job and would be entitled to a redundancy payment.
What happens if I refuse a suitable job?
If you are offered a suitable alternative job and decide not to take it, and you are made redundant, your employer can refuse to pay you redundancy pay.
The Equality Commission has provided answers to some frequently asked questions in its guidance for employers on managing redundancy for pregnant employees and those on maternity leave: