Our expert employment lawyers answer your questions relating to pregnancy rights at work.
Q. I started at my new job three months ago and have just discovered that I am pregnant. Will I get any maternity pay?
A. Providing you are earning at least the Lower Earnings Limit for National Insurance purposes (currently £112 per week) you will qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) if, by the 15th week before your baby is due, you have been employed for 26 weeks. There is a maternity pay and leave calculator on the GOV.UK website. If you don’t qualify for SMP you may be able to get Maternity Allowance.
Q. I’ve been employed for over a year now with no problems at work. Since I told my manager I am pregnant they have started raising “concerns” about my work. What can I do?
A. This is not an uncommon experience. A recent survey found that around 5% of pregnant women reported receiving unfair criticism or disciplinary action. If this treatment is because you have announced your pregnancy it is unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. You could raise a grievance and consider making a claim to an Employment Tribunal.
Q. Do I have to tell prospective employers I am pregnant?
A. There is no obligation on job applicants to tell prospective employers they are pregnant. If you were asked, that in itself would probably be an act of discrimination. If you disclosed that you were and didn’t get the job that would indicate that you had been discriminated against and the onus would be on the employer to show that your pregnancy did not influence their decision in any way.
Q. I work with some chemicals that I think may be harmful. My manager says I shouldn’t worry. What can I do?
A. All employers are under a duty to assess workplace risks and alter working conditions or hours of work to avoid any significant risk to the health and safety of new or expectant mothers in the workplace. The result of the assessment must be given to employees but not necessarily in writing. An employer who fails to carry out the risk assessment may commit an act of unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination. If the assessment identifies a significant risk the employer must alter the working conditions to avoid it and if that is not possible offer other suitable alternative work or ultimately suspend the employee on full pay if that is not available.
Q. I have been suffering a lot from morning sickness and my boss says I have triggered the company policy on sickness absence and they are going to discipline me. Is this fair?
A. Unfavourable treatment because of pregnancy related illness is unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act. Your employer should be disregarding absence caused by morning sickness. You should draw this to their attention and if you are not happy with their response raise a grievance and consider making a claim to an Employment Tribunal.
Q. I had been intending to ask to work part-time when I returned from maternity leave but I am finding working increasingly tiring as my pregnancy progresses. Can I ask now?
A. Since June 2014 any employee with at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment can make a request for flexible working under the statutory scheme for any reason. However the new scheme is much less rigid than the old one and allows the employer three months to deal with the request. Unless your employer is very sympathetic and accommodating that might be too long in your circumstances but you can still make the request for when you want to return to work. Be careful though, only one request can be made in any 12 month period.