Rights for parents during pregnancy

What rights do pregnant women have at work?

Pregnant women have rights at work to protect them from unfair dismissal and allow them to work during their pregnancy; the key rights include:

  • Maternity leave (this will be explained in detail later)
  • Time off for antenatal appointments and treatment (you should also be paid for the time you take off): all employers are obliged to give pregnant employees time off for antenatal appointments and treatment. Employers are allowed to ask for evidence of your appointment after the first appointment; you can show them your letter from the hospital to confirm that you are going to an antenatal appointment. You should be paid at your normal rate of pay for the time you take off to attend antenatal appointments.
  • Payment during maternity leave
  • Protection against unfair dismissal and prejudice: employers are not allowed to discriminate against pregnant women. Employers risk breaching contracts and going against legal Acts if they cut or alter your working hours, make you redundant because you are pregnant or give you inappropriate tasks at work.

In addition to these rights, employers are also obliged to ensure that pregnant women are safe at work; they must adhere to health and safety regulations and take the health of both you and your unborn baby into account. Employers are obliged to carry out a risk assessment to ensure the workplace complies with current regulations. If you work in a potentially hazardous environment, your employer must make changes to ensure you are safe; if they cannot do this they must suspend you from work but continue to pay you at the full rate.

Once you return to work, you also have the right to ask your employer for more flexible hours.

When should I tell my employer that I am pregnant?

You should try to tell your employer soon after you find out that you are pregnant and have had your first scan; however, you are not obliged to tell them until you are at least 15 weeks from your due date. It is advisable to tell your employer earlier on because you can arrange your working hours, discuss any concerns and arrange your maternity leave.

Do fathers have any rights during the pregnancy?

Fathers do not have legal rights when it comes to taking time off for antenatal appointments; however, many employers are very flexible and understanding in these instances and they may enable fathers to be to take time off to attend antenatal appointments.

Maternity leave

All pregnant employees are entitled to statutory maternity leave; you can take maternity leave for up to 52 weeks and this is made up of 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave. You must tell your employer that you are pregnant before the end of the 15th week before your baby is due (around 25 weeks of pregnancy); you must also tell them your due date and the date you intend to take your maternity leave. When you have told your employer the date you intend to start your maternity leave, they must confirm the date you are due to return to work in writing; this should be done within 28 days. Some companies have their own maternity programme; you should discuss this with your employer.

You are allowed to take maternity leave, regardless of how long you have been working at the company and how many hours you work; however, you may not be entitled to statutory pay.

Women on maternity leave are entitled to statutory maternity pay; you may be entitled to statutory pay for 39 weeks but this may depend on your individual circumstances. Many companies have their own maternity pay scheme; check the details of this with your employer. To qualify for statutory maternity pay, you must fulfil the following criteria:

  • You must have worked for the employer for at least 26 weeks before the 15th week before the baby is due
  • You must earn at least as much as the lower earnings limit (this is £97 per week for the tax year 2010-2011)

You will earn 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first 6 weeks of your maternity leave and then either a weekly payment of £124.88 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (depending on which is lower) for the remaining period of time (33 weeks). You will not be able to claim maternity pay if you return to work for more than ten days during your maternity leave. If your employer goes bankrupt or cannot pay your maternity pay, your pay will be covered by HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs).

Paternity leave

Fathers are also entitled to time off after their baby is born; to qualify for paternity leave, employers must fulfil the following criteria:

  • They must have worked for the employer for 26 weeks before the end of the 15th week before the baby is due
  • They must be the baby’s biological father or be the partner or husband of the mother of the baby (the rights are the same for same sex couples)
  • They must be involved in the child’s life and take responsibility for their upbringing
  • They must tell their employer about the baby at least 15 weeks before the baby is due

Paternity leave is also available for fathers of adopted children.

Fathers are entitled to either one or two weeks of paternity leave; the rate of pay is the same as maternity pay. You must tell your employer your name, the due date of the baby, the dates you plan to take paternity leave and prove that you are taking paternity leave to help your partner to look after the baby (you need to fill in a form to do this; the form is available on the HMRC website).

From April 3rd 2011 it will be possible for parents to share leave; for example, if a mother does not take all her maternity leave, her partner can make up the remainder of the time.

What should I do if I have problems with my employer?

If you are having problems with your employer, talk to them and explain your concerns. If you still feel like you are being discriminated against or you are having problems arranging your maternity leave, you should contact the Employment Tribunal; you may have to complete an official complaint against your employer first. If you are a member of a Trade Union, you can also contact them for help. If you need advice or information, you can contact the Citizen’s Advice Bureau or visit the Direct Gov website.

© Medic8® | All Rights Reserved