Our expert employment lawyers answer your questions relating to pregnancy rights at work.
Q. One of my new starters has just announced she is pregnant. Will I have to pay her maternity pay?
A. If she is earning at least the Lower Earnings Limit for National Insurance purposes (currently £112 per week) she will qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) if, by the 15th week before her baby is due, she has been employed for 26 weeks. There is a maternity pay and leave calculator for employers on the GOV.UK website. You can claim 92% of SMP back from the government, 103% if you are a small employer.
Q. Do pregnant women applying for jobs have to tell prospective employers they are pregnant?
A. There is no obligation on job applicants to tell prospective employers they are pregnant. If you asked, that in itself would probably be an act of discrimination. If someone told you that they were and didn’t get the job that would indicate that you had discriminated and the onus would be on you to show that their pregnancy did not influence your decision in any way.
Q. One of my staff thinks that some chemicals we use may be harmful to her because she is pregnant. What should 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. This assessment should be done regardless of whether any employees are pregnant. 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 this. If this is not possible, offer other suitable alternative work or ultimately suspend the employee on full pay if this work is not available.
Q. An employee has been suffering a lot from morning sickness and having time off which is very disruptive. How can I deal with this?
A. Unfavourable treatment because of pregnancy related illness is unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act. You should be disregarding absence caused by morning sickness and if you took any disciplinary action risk facing an Employment Tribunal claim. Is there flexibility in the business to alter her hours so that she comes to work later? She might welcome this as a short term solution.
Q. I had been expecting an employee to seek part-time working for when she returned from maternity leave but she’s put in a request although she’s not yet 6 months pregnant. Can she 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 3 months to deal with the request. You should approach the request in the same way you would have done anyway.