If you are in work when you discover you are expecting, you might have questions about what you need to do and when. This page will tell you your rights (in the UK) and will give advice about how best to move forward with your employer.
(Taken from Gov.uk website - all information accurate at time of publication. You are also advised to check your own internal policies at your place of employment).
Rights for the mother
Pregnant employees have 4 main legal rights:
paid time off for antenatal care
maternity pay or maternity allowance
protection against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal.
When should I tell my employer I am pregnant?
Employees must tell their employer about the pregnancy at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week the baby is due. If this isn’t possible (eg because they didn’t know they were pregnant) the employer must be told as soon as possible. Employees can’t take time off for antenatal appointments until they’ve told the employer about the pregnancy.
Some people may wish to wait until after their 12 or 20 week scans but if you are unable to schedule these outside of your working hours, you may have to inform your employer so that they allow you time to attend these appointments. It is also worth considering the benefits of telling your employer early to allow them to make adjustments as necessary to support you in your job role whilst you are pregnant.
Employers must give pregnant employees time off for antenatal care and pay their normal rate for this time off. Antenatal care’ isn’t just medical appointments - it can also include antenatal or parenting classes if they’ve been recommended by a doctor or midwife.
Health and safety
When the employee tells her employer she’s pregnant, the employer should assess the risks to the woman and her baby.
Risks could be caused by:
heavy lifting or carrying
standing or sitting for long periods without adequate breaks
exposure to toxic substances
long working hours
Where there are risks, the employer should take reasonable steps to remove them, eg by offering the employee different work or changing their hours. The employer should suspend the employee on full pay if they can’t remove any risks, eg by offering suitable alternative work.
Pregnant employees who think they’re at risk but their employer disagrees should talk to their health and safety or trade union representative. If your employer still refuses to do anything, talk to your doctor or contact the Health and Safety Executive.
Maternity Leave: Statutory, Compulsory, Ordinary and Additional
Statutory Maternity Leave is 52 weeks. It’s made up of:
Ordinary Maternity Leave - first 26 weeks
Additional Maternity Leave - last 26 weeks
Compulsory: You don’t have to take 52 weeks but you must take 2 weeks’ leave after your baby is born (or 4 weeks if you work in a factory).
Usually, the earliest you can start your leave is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth.
Leave will also start:
the day after the birth if the baby is early
automatically if you’re off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks before the week (Sunday to Saturday) that your baby is due.
Returning to work
Employers can’t change a pregnant employee’s contract terms and conditions without agreement - if they do they are in breach of contract. This is the same if you are on maternity leave.
If you are returning to working after 52 weeks statutory leave, you technically do not need to do anything. You must give your employer at least 8 weeks’ notice if you want to change your return to work date.
Some workplaces offer paid KIT days (Keeping in Touch days) whilst you are on maternity leave.
Rights for the father/partner
The father or pregnant woman’s partner has the right to unpaid time off work to go to 2 antenatal appointments.
Shared Parental Leave
Under the new system:
- Employed mothers will still be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave as a day one right
- Mothers can choose to end their maternity leave after the initial two week recovery period; working parents can then decide how they want to share the remaining leave
- There will be new statutory payment for parents on shared parental leave with the same qualifying requirements that currently apply to statutory maternity and paternity pay
- Those who have adopted a child will be entitled to the same pay and leave as birth parents.
Maternity Planner: am I entitled to leave and/or pay
Check out this planner.