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Rights for pregnant employees

rights for pregnant employees

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For many reasons, lots of people choose to keep the fact they’re expecting a baby to themselves for the first few weeks. However, there will come a point where you have to let your employer know that you’re pregnant. If you have any concerns about how your employer will react to your news rest assured that there are laws in place that companies must comply with meaning that, in theory at least, you can’t be discriminated against or lose out due to your pregnancy.


There are four key rights that pregnant women are entitled to:

1. Paid time off for antenatal appointments

This applies to antenatal and parenting classes as well as medical appointments but only after you’ve told your employer about your pregnancy. Only the mother is entitled to this paid time off, fathers wanting to attend scans or appointments need to negotiate the time off with their employer.

2. Maternity leave

You will be entitled to take up to a year in maternity leave. Statutory maternity leave is split into two – the first 26 weeks are classed as ordinary maternity leave and the last 26 weeks as additional maternity leave. How long you take is really up to you but in the UK it is compulsory for new mothers to take at least two weeks off work (four weeks for factory workers) following the birth of their baby.

3. Maternity pay

Statutory maternity pay (SMP) is paid for up to 39 weeks. For the first six weeks of your leave you’ll receive 90% of your average weekly earnings. After that you’ll get either £138.18 per week or 90% of your weekly earnings if that figure is lower. If you choose to take the full 52 weeks of maternity leave, you won’t receive any maternity pay for the final 13 weeks. Maternity pay is paid in the same way as your wages or salary usually is (weekly or monthly) and any tax and National Insurance due will be deducted.

4. Protection against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal

Your company cannot change your contract or working conditions while you’re pregnant without you agreeing to it. While you’re on maternity leave your contract’s terms and conditions are still valid so you should be able to accrue holidays, receive pay rises and return to the same job.

Health and safety

rights for pregnent employeesWhen you tell your employer that you’re pregnant they should organise a risk assessment to take place. Where risks are found the employer has a duty to remove them. This could be by offering a different type of work or changing shift patterns, for example. In the event that it is impossible to remove all risks, the woman should normally be suspended on full pay.

Telling your employer

While you have legal rights as an employee, your employer also has rights to know about your plans. You must inform your employer of your pregnancy at least 15 weeks before your baby is due. Where that’s not doable, e.g. the woman doesn’t know she’s pregnant, the employer must be told as soon as possible. If your company doesn’t officially know that you’re pregnant then it is not responsible for the health and safety issues mentioned above and you won’t be entitled to any paid time off for antenatal care until you make them aware of your pregnancy. You also have to tell your employer when you want to start your maternity leave from (thought this may change if your baby arrives early or you have complications resulting in you missing work in the four weeks before your due date).





About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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