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Your rights in pregnancy and maternity

Do you know your rights in pregnancy and maternity? We’ve answered some common questions and rights below. Information correct as of 4 March 2020.

When do I need to tell my employer I’m pregnant?
The latest time you can tell your employer that you’re pregnant is the 15th week before your baby is due.

If you’re an employee, you have a right to take reasonable time off for antenatal appointments without losing pay. Speak to your employer to see if there are timings that work for both of you. Fathers and partners are also entitled to up to two antenatal appointments unpaid.

My employer has put me on a performance improvement plan while I’m pregnant – can they do this?
This could be discrimination if it’s for reason related to your pregnancy, ie morning sickness.  But if this is just due to genuine issues with your performance, they can do this. However, you shouldn’t be treated any less favourably because of your pregnancy.

I feel like I’ve been discriminated against because of my pregnancy – what are my rights?
Discrimination isn’t just getting sacked – it could be being passed over for a promotion, not placed on big projects or negative comments related to your pregnancy.
If you feel you have been treated less favourably because of being pregnant or have taken maternity leave and have exhausted informal options (ie speaking to your HR department), you can take your employer to a tribunal.
You can claim discrimination and unfair dismissal on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity from day one of your employment.
You have to raise your claim with ACAS three months less one day from the last act of discrimination.
You can apply for remission (support with tribunal fees), ie if you’re on maternity allowance or have low disposable income (less than £3K). Your partner’s earnings can be taken into account.

What if I feel like my workplace isn’t safe?
As soon as you inform your employer that you’re pregnant, they should carry out a risk assessment.
If you feel that risks have been identified and nothing has been done, you should raise a grievance or go to your GP to get signed off work if you think there is a serious risk to you or your unborn baby.

If you’re concerned about Covid risks in the workplace, we’ve drafted a letter for you to send to your manager to ensure your safety.

Your rights while on maternity leave

How much maternity leave do I get and when should I go back to work?
Your employer should assume that you will be taking 52 weeks of leave. If you decide to return early, you should give eight weeks’ notice.

How much will I get paid?
If you’re an employee and have been employed by your employer for 26 weeks continuously, you have the right to 52 weeks off on maternity leave. You get 39 weeks statutory maternity pay, but your employer may offer contractual maternity pay that goes above and beyond that.
Statutory pay is 6 weeks at 90% of your average weekly pay and the standard SMP rate thereafter.

What happens if I’m made redundant during maternity leave?
If you’re made redundant during maternity leave, you should be kept fully involved and be invited to consultations.
Your employer has to offer you alternative suitable roles and if you are on maternity leave and a suitable role comes up, you should be placed in that role before any other staff. You do not have to go into the interview.

When can I start my maternity leave?
You can decide when you want your maternity leave to start, and you can work up until the week of childbirth if you wish to do so.  The only exception to this is if you are off sick for a pregnancy-related reason or due to a health and safety risk in your workplace, in the four weeks leading up to your due date, then your employer can start your maternity leave automatically from that date.
The earliest you can start your ordinary maternity leave is 11 weeks before your expected week of childbirth.

Am I eligible for a promotion or pay rise while I’m on maternity leave?
Your employer must consider you for any opportunities, such as promotions or a pay rise.

Can I do work for my employer while I’m on maternity leave?
You can do up to 10 keeping-in-touch (KIT) days. You are not legally obligated to do them, and your employer is not legally obligated to offer them.
KIT days are normally paid at your full rate of pay, but your SMP gets taken into account.

Do I have a right to return to the same job after maternity leave?
If you take up to six months off (Ordinary Maternity Leave), you are entitled to return to the same job with no changes. If you take Additional Maternity Leave (more than six months), you are entitled to return to the same job as before as long as it’s reasonably practical. If it’s not, your employer must offer you a comparable role.

Flexible working

Does my employer have to offer me flexible working?
Employers don’t have to offer flexible working, but everyone has the legal right to apply.

The pandemic has forced many employers to adopt flexible working practices and you may want to make that a more permanent arrangement. Remember, that flexible working isn’t a motherhood issue – it’s a human issue. Everyone benefits from a more flexible way of working as do businesses and the environment. Every employee has the right to request flexible working, not just parents. Remember though that if approved, your flexible working request will stand for at least 12 months, so you should be sure that it is an arrangement that will work for you. If you want support in making your flexible working request, you can call our helpline

How should I ask my employer for flexible working?
Approach your employer informally first – but get something in writing afterwards.
You can only submit one flexible working request once in any 12 month period. You should then be invited to a meeting to discuss it. Your employer has to reply within three months. You should check if you can bring a colleague or trade union representative to the meeting.  Your employer does not have to allow this, but it is good practice to let you bring someone if you wish.

What if my employer turns down my request?
Your employer may turn down your request if they can’t arrange your workload amongst existing staff or if the impact on existing customers and clients is too great, and they incur additional costs of employing other staff. This is considered as not meeting the business case.
You have no legal right to appeal a rejected request, although many employers do offer an appeals process as a way of demonstrating that they are handling the request process fairly. If your employer does offer an appeals process, then they will usually give you a reasonable amount of time to do this, such as 14 days. If you wish to appeal a rejected request, or you think you’re rejected request is part of a pattern of discrimination, you can phone our helpline.

I applied for a job but didn’t get it and think it’s because I need flexibility for childcare – what can I do?
Employers shouldn’t ask about your childcare arrangements during interviews. If you apply for a job and don’t get it and suspect discrimination, your rights are protected. You can request information on why you didn’t get the job, but it can be difficult to prove.

Shared parental leave

How does shared parental leave work?
The mother has to take the first two weeks as maternity leave (or four weeks if she works in a factory), but you can share the rest of the leave with your partner.
The mother has to curtail her maternity leave to bring it to and end so shared parental leave can start.
You can take periods of discontinuous leave that allow you to go into work for different periods of time, ie the mother takes off three months, then goes back to work for three months while her partner takes off for three months.

Couldn’t find the answer to your question? Call our helpline on 0161 2229879.



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