Maternity Rights In The Workplace

Network She Maternity Rights women in business

If you’re pregnant and in full-time employment, there are legal rights that you’re entitled to. These rights can protect you from discrimination. They can also make sure you get time off for antenatal appointments as well as making sure that you’re working in a safe environment.

There are four main rights that pregnant employees are entitled to. Paid time off for antenatal care, maternity leave, employees are entitled to maternity pay or allowance and protection against unfair treatment. 

Protecting employees against unfair treatment (discrimination)

This form of discrimination happens when you’re put at a disadvantage. It could be because your boss treats you unfairly due to your pregnancy or if you’ve recently had a baby. Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal to do this.

Examples of maternity and pregnancy discrimination

  • Singling out new mothers or pregnant women for redundancy. (Using absence as a redundancy selection criterion is fine, but including pregnancy-related absences may be considered discrimination)
  • Unjustified refusal of flexible working requests after returning from maternity leave. (As an employer, you have a legal duty to handle requests for employees with over 26 weeks’ service to move to flexible working hours)
  • Inappropriate comments about an employee’s pregnancy. (Make it clear to employees that there is no excuse for making negative remarks to pregnant employee)
  • Health and safety breaches. (carry out risk assessments for pregnant employees and new mothers)

Health and safety considerations

In terms of working while pregnant, employers are required to carry out a health and safety risk assessment. This is done to identify and address any potential risk to the pregnant employee and the baby.

Potential risks include:

  • Heavy lifting
  • Prolonged sitting or standing without breaks
  • Exposure to toxic substances
  • Long working hours

Once these risks have been identified, it is the employer’s responsibility to take steps to resolve them. 

Maternity pay

If you’re considering taking time off to have a baby, you’ll be entitled to statutory maternity pay, paid time off for antenatal care and maybe even help from the government. 

You’re entitled to Statutory maternity pay for up to 39 weeks. During that time, you’ll get 90% of your weekly pay for the first 6 weeks you’re off work. After that, either £145.18 or 90% of your weekly earnings depending on which is lower for the remaining 33 weeks.

In order to claim statutory maternity pay, you’ll need to inform your employer at least 15 weeks before your due date. Inform your employer of your due date and when you’d like to begin your maternity leave. Once you’ve informed your employer, they must write to you within 28 days to confirm the start and end date of your leave. 

It’s important to remember that before you can start receiving SMP, you’ll need to present your employer with proof of your pregnancy. This can come in the form of a letter from your doctor or midwife, it could also be your MATB1 certificate from your doctor or midwife. The burden of proof should be presented to your employers within 21 days of your SMP starting. 

Maternity leave

As an employee (regardless of length of service), you have the right to take up to one year off for maternity leave. The only time where you wouldn’t be eligible for maternity leave is when you’re contracted by an agency, if you’re a casual worker or on a zero-hour contract.

Ideally, you’ll be able to start your maternity leave up to 11 weeks before you’re due. If the baby arrives early, you can start your leave the day after delivery. If you’re away from work for a pregnancy related illness, then you leave will start automatically in the four weeks before the week you’re due. 

Are you’re currently pregnant and would like to know more about what you’re entitled to and what your employer’s responsibilities are? Check out the official government website for more information about shared parental leave, maternity allowance, paternity pay and leave, employee rights when on leave and more.

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