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Rights of Pregnant Employees in UK

UK statutory laws protect women who carry on working while expecting a baby. Thus, pregnant employees' rights include protection against unfair treatment and discrimination.

PREGNANCY EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS: Check what pregnant employees’ legal rights are in the workplace.

Employers must provide pregnant workers with the appropriate protection law for pregnancy at work.

The entitlement for pregnant workers may also extend to paid time off for antenatal care.

It is important to inform your employer if you are pregnant at work. Follow these workplace procedures to get your Statutory Maternity Pay and Leave entitlement.

The 4 Basic Employee Rights when Pregnant

  1. Normal rate of pay for time off work to receive antenatal care.
  2. Maternity Leave.
  3. Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance.
  4. Protection against discrimination at work, unfair treatment, or a dismissal.

Besides medical appointments, ‘antenatal care‘ also applies to other situations. Often, it can apply to parenting or antenatal classes.

Note: Doctors and midwives may recommend expectant mothers to attend extra antenatal classes.

Your employer cannot change your contract of employment because of pregnancy at work. Unless you agree to it, changing your working terms of agreement would be in breach of the contract.

All employers have specific obligations to safeguard the rights of their pregnant employees. This includes providing adequate workplace health and safety protection.

UK law for pregnancy at work also provides legal rights for the father (or the civil partner). Pregnant employees’ rights allow them attendance at two (2) antenatal appointments. As a rule, the time off work is unpaid for these circumstances.

Pregnancy Related Illnesses at Work

Pregnancy related illnesses at work may affect pregnant employees’ rights. Having a pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks before the birth, triggers certain conditions.

In this case, Statutory Maternity Pay and Leave will begin without delay. This situation also overrides any previous terms agreed between you and your employer.

Compulsory Maternity Leave Period

Pregnant employees must take a compulsory maternity leave period. This rule applies even if you do not take your Statutory Maternity Leave.

The UK compulsory maternity leave period is two (2) weeks away from work following the birth of the baby.

The mandatory time off work rules extend to four (4) weeks for factory workers.

Informing Your Employer about Your Pregnancy

All employees must inform their employer about a pregnancy. As a rule, you must inform them at least 15 weeks before the expected week of childbirth.

You must tell your employer as soon as possible in any other circumstances (e.g. if you were unaware). Then, go ahead and notify your employer of the start time for you to get Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay.

Note: Employee entitlement for paid time off to attend antenatal appointments happens ‘after’ you inform your employer about the pregnancy and birth plans.

Pregnant Employee Health and Safety

Your employer has certain obligations once you inform them that you are expecting a baby. They should assess their health and safety policy for pregnancies in the workplace. Potential areas of risk to a pregnant female and her baby include:

  • Activities that involve heavy lifting or carrying heavy items.
  • Excessive working hours without taking adequate rest breaks.
  • Standing up or sitting down for long periods of time.
  • A harmful exposure to certain toxic substances (e.g. smoking in the workplace).

Employers who identify risk areas should offer alternative work roles to pregnant females. Taking reasonable steps could mean changing the working hours or a new job placement.

In some cases, employers may find it impossible to remove the risk or offer alternative work. So, the correct response would be to suspend the pregnant employee from work – on full pay.

There are further employee rights on maternity leave and for health and safety at work. Contact the safety office or trade union if you dispute a potential risk area in the workplace. You should inform the HSE or your doctor in severe or dangerous cases.

Pregnant Employees’ Rights in the United Kingdom