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Employment Relations Act 1999

Leave for family reasons

Section 9 and Part III of Schedule 4: Consequential amendments

186.Section 9 gives effect to Part III of Schedule 4, which sets out changes to current legislation resulting from the provisions relating to maternity leave, parental leave and time off to deal with matters concerning dependants. Most of these are technical consequential changes, but the Schedule also confers a right not to suffer detriment for reasons connected with maternity, parental leave or time off and makes dismissal for any such reasons automatically unfair.

187.The latter provisions in part implement requirements of the Parental Leave Directive, and fulfil proposals in Fairness at Work; and in part replace the original provisions in the 1996 Act. As with the other family rights, these provisions will be developed in regulations. It is intended that all the rights and protections to be covered together in a single set of regulations. References to paragraphs in the following are to paragraphs of Part III of Schedule 4.

188.Paragraph 10 inserts a new section 47C into the 1996 Act giving employees the right not to suffer detriment (i.e. unfavourable treatment) for reasons, to be set out in detail in regulations, relating to pregnancy, maternity, parental leave or time off for dependants, including matters connected with collective or workforce agreements on parental leave. While legislation already provides the right not to be dismissed for reasons relating to pregnancy and maternity, under the original 1996 Act provisions there is no explicit right not to suffer detriment for such reasons. In practice, however, unfavourable treatment on these grounds will almost always be unlawful sex discrimination, so including pregnancy and maternity in this provision is to bring the maternity provisions in line with those on parental leave and time off for domestic incidents, rather than to create what is a significant additional right in itself. The new right follows the same lines as existing rights not to suffer detriment in Part V of the 1996 Act.

189.Paragraph 18 replaces section 99, which makes it automatically unfair to dismiss a women for reasons connected with pregnancy or maternity, with a power to make similar but wider provisions relating also to parental leave, time off for dependants and related collective or workforce agreements.

190.Paragraph 46 amends the order-making powers in the 1996 Act to provide that the regulations on maternity and parental leave are made under the affirmative procedure, requiring a debate in both Houses of Parliament.

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