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Your pregnancy rights

What are your pregnancy rights in the workplace?

Pregnant employees have the right to be treated the same as other employees in the workplace. They should not be discriminated against because of their pregnancy.

UK law has given protection to pregnant employees by providing pregnant employee rights which aim to prevent pregnancy discrimination.

Employees have been given legal rights during pregnancy under the Employment Rights Act 1996. It is essential to provide pregnant employee rights at work for many reasons such as:

  1. To promote gender equality in the workplace by giving equal opportunities to both men and women;
  2. To provide support to those pregnant employees who are financially supporting their families;
  3. So that the pregnant employee may not have to make a tough decision of a choosing between the child and the job.

When is the right time to tell your employer that you are pregnant?

An employee may choose to tell her employer as soon as possible that she is pregnant or keep her pregnancy confidential, at least initially.  Whatever she decides, a woman must disclose her pregnancy to her employer at least 15 weeks before the baby is due.

If the employee finds out about the pregnancy later, for instance, in her fifth month of pregnancy, then she must disclose her pregnancy to the employer immediately.

The sooner you reveal to your employer the more beneficial it will be to you because then you can begin to exercise your pregnant employee rights.

The employer’s legal responsibility towards the pregnant employee will commence immediately after the employer becomes aware of the employee’s pregnancy.

What are employee rights during pregnancy?

The following are basic employee rights during pregnancy: 

Paid time off for antenatal care

Antenatal care is the routine care or regular check up of a pregnant woman by healthcare professionals.

Right to maternity leave

Maternity leave means pregnant employee taking time off from work before and after the birth of the child. Pregnant employees are legally entitled to this leave which is granted by the employer.

Pregnant employees have the right to 52 weeks of statutory maternity leave however the employee must inform the employer of the date of the commencement of maternity leave.

The qualifying conditions, redundancy, duration, contract of maternity leave have been covered under the Employment Rights Act 1996 and Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999/3312 

Right to paid maternity leave

The right to maternity leave is different from the right to paid maternity leave. Statutory Paid Leave is when the employee gets paid for up to 39 weeks provided the conditions under the statute are met.

Protection against unfair dismissal and discrimination

Pregnant employees will protected against unfair dismissal and discrimination

What are the legal responsibilities of the employer towards a pregnant employee?

The key responsibility of the employer is to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for the employee and the unborn baby. They must carry out a risk assessment.

For example if the employee is working in a factory the employer must take reasonable steps to prevent any risk of safety and health to the employee or the unborn baby. The obvious risk of health and safety include exposure to toxic chemicals, lifting heavy articles, exposure to extreme temperatures (hot or cold) and or loud noise, long working hours. The employer is under a legal duty to minimise or eliminate all risks for e.g. giving flexible working hours, changing the work department, giving short breaks for meals and rest etc.

If the employees’ pregnancy is more complicated than a normal pregnancy the employee should provide a medical certificate to the employer and will be legally entitled to additional rights and protection.