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Mother’s Day Special: Pregnancy and Maternity Rights

As it’s Mother’s Day this Sunday we thought it would be timely to have a look at four fast facts when it comes to pregnancy and maternity rights in the workplace.

1. Mum’s the word…

For the purposes of taking maternity leave an employee will usually need to notify you that she is pregnant by the end of the 15th week before her expected week of childbirth. 

In practice, employees often choose to tell their employers that they are pregnant sooner rather than later to benefit from rights such as paid time off for antenatal care and protection from discrimination or dismissal on account of their pregnancy.

When it comes to job applicants, they are not obliged to tell you that they are pregnant during the recruitment process and they cannot safely be subsequently dismissed for failing to do so.

2. Time off for ante-natal appointments

You will need to allow your pregnant employee reasonable paid time off to keep appointments for antenatal care, which are made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife or registered health visitor. Antenatal care includes medical examinations and may also include other appointments, for example, relaxation classes and parent-craft classes.

When it comes to pay for time off for ante-natal care, this should be at the woman’s normal hourly rate of pay.

Don’t forget that it’s not just pregnant women that have a right to time off when it comes to ante-natal appointments. Expectant fathers and a pregnant woman’s spouse, partner or civil partner are entitled to take time off work to accompany her to a maximum of two antenatal appointments.  However, those accompanying a pregnant woman have no statutory right to pay for the time off. 

3. Terms and conditions during maternity leave

Employment does not terminate because a woman is taking maternity leave.  You need to continue to allow her to benefit from all the terms and conditions of her employment that she would have enjoyed if she had been at work.  The exception to this is that she will not be entitled to remuneration.  However, you need to pay her maternity pay if she qualifies for it.

There can be some tricky areas for employers when it comes to terms and conditions for employees on maternity leave, so it’s important to ensure you seek advice on the facts of your situation where required.

4. Pregnancy and maternity protection

It’s important to bear in mind that pregnant women and those taking, seeking to take or who have taken maternity leave shouldn’t be treated unfairly. It’s automatically unfair to dismiss a woman because of pregnancy or maternity. There are also the rights not to be discriminated against or subjected to a detriment on those grounds.

Employers can sometimes inadvertently find themselves falling foul of the law, so it’s important to seek advice before taking action such as addressing conduct or performance issues or proposing redundancies, particularly in relation to a pregnant employee or a woman on maternity leave.

If you have any questions regarding this, or any other employment law topic, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.