Can you be made redundant while pregnant or on furlough?

Citizens Advice has seen demand for employment advice more than double during the coronavirus pandemic, and redundancy was one of the most searched-for terms on its website in May.

Redundancy rules cover many areas, such as discrimination, employment status and voluntary redundancy. The rules are covered in full on the Citizens Advice website, and one-to-one advice is available from our frontline advisers.

Matthew Bradbury, Employment Expert at Citizens Advice, has also answered six of the most frequently asked employment questions:

Can I be made redundant if I’m pregnant or on maternity leave?

You can be made redundant while pregnant or on maternity leave, but there are strict rules that must be followed before this can happen.You can’t be made redundant because you’re pregnant or on maternity leave. If you are this counts as “automatic unfair dismissal” and discrimination.

This could be where, for example, the employer has no genuine reason to make you redundant, or there is a real reason to make people redundant but the employer picks you because of a reason relating to pregnancy or maternity leave.

There is additional protection for women who are on maternity leave, or those on shared parental leave. If you are on maternity or parental leave, and there is a genuine reason to make your role redundant, your employer must offer you suitable alternative work if they have it. They should give you this as a priority over other employees.

Can I be made redundant if I’m on sick leave?

You can be made redundant while on sick leave, but there are rules to protect against discrimination. When deciding whom to make redundant, an employer can take sickness records into account unless the sickness relates to an underlying disability. They should treat any absence related to a disability differently.If the sick leave is related to a disability, the employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to its redundancy processes and decisions. For example, it might disregard some or all of any disability-related absences. But, a disabled person may still be lawfully chosen for redundancy if the employer can show that this was justified because it was proportionate when considering the needs of the business. There’s no absolute protection against dismissal or redundancy for disabled people.

Can I be made redundant while on furlough?

You can be made redundant while you’re furloughed, but there are still rules your employer must follow. In a genuine and fair redundancy, employees who are made redundant are entitled to statutory and contractual redundancy payments, notice of their redundancy dismissal and any wages and holiday pay.

What are my rights if the business I work for is closing?

You can be made redundant if the business where you work is closing down.

Hopefully your employer will have enough cash to pay all of its workers all of the termination payments they are owed, such as notice pay, redundancy payments, and wages and holiday pay owed. If not, the government’s Redundancy Payment Service may cover some of what you’re owed under statutory rules, which is the minimum you’re entitled to under the law.

Am I entitled to redundancy pay?

You’re entitled to statutory redundancy pay, which is the minimum the law says you’re entitled to, if you’ve been an employee for two years. The amount you will get depends on your age and how long you have worked for the company. You won’t get statutory redundancy pay if you’ve worked for the company for less than two years, are self-employed or are in certain professions such as the armed forces or police.

You may also lose out on statutory redundancy pay if you turn down a suitable alternative job from your employer without a good reason. Your employer may also pay extra money on top of the statutory amount you’re entitled to – this is called contractual redundancy pay. Some employees may be entitled to contractual redundancy pay even though they are not entitled to statutory redundancy pay.

How much notice will I be given if I’m being made redundant?

If you’ve worked for your employer for at least a month you’re entitled to a paid statutory notice period. If you’ve worked there for more than a month but less than two years, you have to be given a week’s notice. For two years or more, it’s a week for each full year you have worked, up to a maximum of 12 weeks. You may be entitled to a longer notice period as part of your employment contract.

Your notice period only starts when your employer says you’ll be made redundant and gives you a finishing date – not when your employer says you’re at risk of redundancy.

If your employer is making 20 or more people redundant, you’re part of a ‘collective redundancy’, which means your employer has to hold a group consultation. This must start at least 30 days before anyone’s job ends. If 100 or more people are being made redundant, group meetings must start at least 45 days before anyone’s job ends.