The run up to the birth of a child is a very exciting time. For a working mother-to-be though, it can be a challenge to keep on top of your employee rights both during your pregnancy and after the birth.
Below is a short guide about your legal rights as an employee when you’re expecting.
During your pregnancy you will likely have to attend several antenatal appointments on the advice of a medical practitioner. As well as regular scans and check ups, this may include sessions like prenatal yoga and relaxation classes. You will be entitled to reasonable time off with pay for these appointments, though your employer may ask for an appointment card to show that the appointments have been made.
If you are unable to attend work due to a pregnancy related illness, then you should report in sick in the usual way. You won’t automatically be entitled to sick pay though, and will receive the same pay as you would have before your pregnancy. Your employer will note any pregnancy related sickness separately to your existing sick record and this cannot be used to trigger a review in line with an absence policy.
Whilst there is legally no minimum length of service for employees to be entitled to take maternity leave, you must let your employer know as least 15 weeks before the baby is due.
Pregnant employees are entitled to 52 weeks statutory maternity leave. The first 26 weeks is referred to as ordinary maternity leave and the second 26 weeks additional maternity leave.
The maternity pay you receive during this time will depend on your contract and the amount of time you’ve been employed. Provided you have been employed by your current employer for 26 weeks (with the 15th week before the expected birth date) and your earnings are equal to the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions, then you will be entitled to statutory maternity pay.
Whilst you are on maternity leave you will continue to accrue paid annual holiday, which you will be able to take at any point. Often this is taken at the start or the end of maternity leave, as it cannot be taken at the same time as maternity leave.
You may wish to take ‘Keeping in Touch’ days whilst you’re on maternity leave. These are great for keeping employees in contact with their workplace and ensuring an easy return to work. You are entitled to ten unpaid Keeping in Touch days during your maternity leave and they’re perfect should you need to attend training or team meetings.
You can still be made redundant whilst on maternity leave, though you must first be offered a suitable alternative vacancy if there’s one available. You cannot however be made redundant solely because you are pregnant or on maternity leave and all the proper procedures must be followed.
Returning to work
You should discuss a suitable date to return to work with your employer. Often mothers will return to their original job with the same hours, terms and conditions as before, though many request flexible working, which an employer must consider.
Discrimination & unfair dismissal
If you have been dismissed, treated differently at work or had any of the rights outlined above withheld, then you may have a claim for discrimination or unfair dismissal. This can also include things like being overseen for a promotion and missing out on any training.
If you think you’ve experienced pregnancy or maternity discrimination at work then please contact us for a free, no-obligation phone consultation* with one of our employment specialists.
*Subject to availability.