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I am pregnant – what are my pregnancy rights at work and what do I need to do?

I am pregnant – what are my pregnancy rights at work and what do I need to do?

I am pregnant – what are my pregnancy rights at work and what do I need to do?

You must formally notify your employer that you are pregnant no later than the 15th week before your baby is due.

What do I tell my employer?

You should confirm the date of the week your baby is due and the date you want to start your maternity leave. There will be times when your plans will change and sometimes at short notice. If you need to change the date to start your leave, you should give your employer at least 28 days’ notice if possible. If you give birth before your maternity leave date, it will automatically start on the date you give birth. If you are off sick with a pregnancy related matter in the fourth week before the week your baby is due, your maternity leave will automatically start.

What should my employer do?

Your employer should respond to your notification within 28 days and confirm the start and end days for your leave. Your employer will ask for your MATB1 form. You can get this from your midwife. 

How much maternity leave can I take?

If you are an employee, you can take up to 52 weeks maternity leave. There is no qualifying period. Employees must take at least two weeks maternity leave (four weeks if you work in a factory).

Maternity leave is broken down in two parts:

  1. The first 26 weeks is known as ordinary maternity leave
  2. The remaining 26 weeks is known as additional maternity leave

What about antenatal appointments?

Your pregnancy rights at work mean that all pregnant employees have a statutory right to paid time off during working hours for the purpose of receiving antenatal care, regardless of hours worked or length of service.

What maternity pay am I entitled to?

If you are…

  • An employee who in the 15th week before your due date has been employed continuously for 26 weeks for your employer;
  • An employee who earns at least £123 per week in the 8 weeks leading up to the 15th week before you are due to give birth,

…you will qualify for statutory maternity pay.

You will receive statutory maternity pay for up to 39 weeks. You will be paid at 90% of your earnings for the first six weeks. For the remaining 33 weeks you will be paid £172.48 (as at April 2023) or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). This means that if you take the full 52 weeks maternity leave, 13 weeks will be unpaid.

Some employers will offer an enhanced maternity pay scheme

In these circumstances if you do not return to work or leave within a set period of time following a return from maternity leave, you may most likely need to repay your employer anything above statutory maternity levels. Where an enhanced scheme is in place, your employer should have a clear policy which sets out the relevant terms.

If you do not qualify for statutory maternity pay, you may be entitled to maternity allowance which can be claimed through Jobcentre Plus and not via your employer.

What about my other terms and conditions?

Your terms and conditions (other than pay) are protected during maternity leave. You will continue to accrue holiday, your employer will continue to contribute to your pension and you may be entitled to a bonus if one is paid. 

What happens to my holiday?

Your pregnancy rights at work mean that if you have accrued holiday to take when you start maternity leave, your employer should allow you to carry up to 5.6 weeks (28) unused days to your next holiday year prorated if part time. You may want to consider taking your leave at the end of your maternity leave period, but you should discuss this with your employer.

Can I work during my maternity leave?

You can work for up to 10 days during your leave, but this is voluntary. These days are known as “keep in touch” (KIT) days. You can receive full salary for working KIT days, but the level of pay should be agreed with your employer in advance. KIT days are often used for a normal day’s work, for training or a team workplace event.

Can I return to the same job?

Once your maternity leave has ended, your right to return to your same job depends on how much leave you have taken. If you have taken up to 26 weeks (ordinary maternity leave) you will have the right to return to the same job. If you take more than 26 weeks (additional maternity leave), you have the right to return to the same job unless your employer has a genuine reason to offer you an alternative. If you are offered an alternative job, it must be suitable, appropriate and on the same terms. For example, it must have the same pay and benefits, holiday leave and pay and seniority.

Can I be made redundant while I am on maternity leave?

You can be made redundant during your maternity leave or on your return and the termination of your employment will be fair and lawful if:

  1. there is a genuine redundancy situation;
  2. your employer properly consults you;
  3. you are not chosen for redundancy because of your pregnancy;
  4. the selection criteria does not put you at a disadvantage; and
  5. your employer has considered whether there are any other suitable alternative roles you could carry out and if so to offer this to you for your return from maternity leave. This gives an employee on maternity leave priority over other employees who are also at risk of redundancy. If your employer does not comply with this requirement, you will have a claim for automatically unfair dismissal. The government consulted in early 2019 on whether to extend this protection to cover the period from the notification of pregnancy to six months after return to work. It has committed to introducing this reform and the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill received Royal Assent on 24 May 2023. A date for when this will become law is awaited.

If you are made redundant whilst on maternity leave, your statutory redundancy pay should be calculated on your normal weekly pay before your maternity leave started.

Can I return early from maternity leave?

If you wish to return to work before the end of your statutory maternity leave, you must give your employer at least eight weeks’ notice of your date of return.

Can I request a change to my working hours / arrangements for my return to work?

You may want to change your working arrangements before your return from maternity leave. For example, you may want to reduce your hours and work part time, complete your hours over fewer days, work from home or share your job with someone else. If you are an employee and have 26 weeks’ continuous service, and you have not made a flexible working request in the previous 12 months, you will be entitled to request flexible working. Your employer must deal with your request in a reasonable manner and notify the outcome to you within a three-month decision period. You should make any request in good time before your return, so your employer has time to consider it properly. Before submitting a formal request, you may want to have an informal discussion with your employer to see if your request works or whether any variation may be required.

What should I do if I do not want to return to work?

If you do not want to return to work you should give your employer notice in accordance with the terms of your contract of employment.

What can I do if I think I have been unfairly dismissed, or suffered a detriment and discrimination?

It is automatically unfair (at any time) to dismiss an employee or to select her for redundancy when the reason or principal reason for the dismissal (or selection for redundancy) is connected to her pregnancy. 

An employee should also not be discriminated against or be subjected to a detriment because she is pregnant or on maternity leave.

If you believe you have been dismissed unfairly, discriminated against or have been subjected to a detriment, you should take advice as soon as possible so that you are aware of your pregnancy rights at work and the options available to you to deal with the issue. 

How our employment law solicitors can help you

Our employment law solicitors have extensive experience in guiding employees on their employment rights before, during and after maternity leave. If you have any questions around your maternity leave or you believe you have been unfairly dismissed, discriminated against or suffered a detriment, please contact our employment solicitors for an initial free, no obligation conversation (020 8475 7401) or email us at employment@edslaw.co.uk. Our employment solicitors can meet with you via Teams or Zoom or face to face by arrangement at one of our offices in London Waterloo, Stratford, Wanstead or Ilford.

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