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Pregnancy & Maternity Employment Law: 10 Points To Remember

Most employers want to behave fairly and discharge their duties to those staff who are pregnant or on maternity leave. However, employers may inadvertently discriminate.

And, if employers fail to handle pregnancy and maternity issues fairly, they can expose themselves to potential discrimination and unfair dismissal claims.

With this in mind, we have collated our top 10 tips to help all responsible employers when dealing with these employees or workers.

  1. Provide your employees with a pregnancy and maternity policy. This should set out your arrangements for maternity leave and maternity pay. It is not enough to simply have a policy in place – you must make sure that your managers and employees are aware of it and understand their duties and obligations.
  2. Conduct a risk assessment in order to determine whether there are any health and safety risks for your pregnant employees. You may need to alter your employee’s working hours and conditions to avoid any significant risks or, if not reasonable to do so, offer suitable alternative work on no less favourable terms. Seek specialist advice.
  3. Ensure that your employees are allowed paid time off to attend antenatal appointments.
  4. Conduct appraisals at a time when your employee is able to participate. This may mean bringing this forward or conducting it on a KIT (keeping in touch) day whilst on maternity leave.
  5. Do not forget about employees on maternity leave. Keep them up to date with news about what is going on in the workplace and let them know about any important changes such as promotion opportunities, potential redundancies or changes to their department.
  6. Women on maternity leave continue to accrue their statutory and contractual holiday entitlement. Encourage your employees to use this at appropriate times in order to minimise disruption to your business. For example, you could suggest they use the time accrued to extend their maternity leave rather than having them go immediately on holiday after they have returned.
  7. Ensure that employees benefit from any pay rises on return to work. If you don’t then it is likely you will have treated them unfavourably and breached the Maternity Equality Clause in their contract. You may face a discrimination claim.
  8. If a redundancy situation arises, remember to consult with employees on maternity leave. You must also offer employees on maternity leave suitable alternative employment, prioritising them over and above other employees at risk.
  9. Have a meaningful consultation with your employee before they return to work. Employees on maternity leave have a right to return to the same job, or if not reasonably practicable, a suitable alternative role.
  10. Give proper consideration to flexible working requests and make sure you follow the statutory procedure or, from 30 June 2014, the Acas Code and guidance on flexible working.

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Laura Middleton

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