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FAQs: Pregnancy in the Workplace for Employees

Our expert Employment lawyers answer your questions relating to pregnancy rights at work

1. You started your job three months ago and have discovered you are pregnant. Will you get any maternity pay?
2. You have just announced that you are pregnant. Your employer is now raising performance concerns which they haven’t done before?
3. Do you have to tell prospective employers you are pregnant?
4. When should you tell your boss that you are pregnant?
5. You work with some chemicals that you think may be harmful. Your manager says you shouldn’t worry. What can you do?
6. You have been suffering a lot from morning sickness and your boss says you have triggered the company policy on sickness absence and they are going to discipline you. Is this fair?
7. You had been intending to ask to work part-time when you returned from maternity leave but you are finding working increasingly tiring as your pregnancy progresses. Can you ask now?
8. You have been employed for over a year now with no problems at work. Since you told your manager that you are pregnant they have started raising “concerns” about your work. What can you do?
9. Can you refuse to travel as part of your work now that you are pregnant?
10. Can you sue your employer for pregnancy discrimination?

You started your job three months ago and have discovered you are pregnant. Will you get any maternity pay?

Providing you are earning at least the Lower Earnings Limit for National Insurance purposes (currently £118 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.

You have just announced that you are pregnant. Your employer is now raising performance concerns which they haven’t done before?

You are entitled to be treated fairly at work as a pregnant employee. If your employer is attempting to push you out of your job by fabricating issues of poor performance, they are treating you unfavourably and subjecting you to detriment because of your pregnancy.

This is unlawful pregnancy discrimination.

We would advise you to raise a formal grievance referring to recent appraisals, letters relating to any bonus awards or pay increases to show that prior to announcing your pregnancy, there were no performance concerns.

If your employer genuinely believes there has been a dip in your performance, they will need to provide evidence of this. They should follow a fair capability process which requires them to put the issues to you, hear your response before deciding whether to place you on a Performance Review. Account must be taken if there are mitigating factors such as pregnancy related sickness or fatigue or a failure by management to set realistic targets or support you.

A grievance should be heard before putting you on a Performance Review, as your case is that taking this step would be unfair.

You may be able to bring a claim for pregnancy discrimination in the Employment Tribunal if they have treated you unfairly.

Do you have to tell prospective employers you are pregnant?

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.

When should you tell your boss you are pregnant?

You must tell your employer you are pregnant by the fifteenth week before your baby is due, known as the “notification week”. You will probably want to tell your employer before then because you will need to take time off for antenatal appointments. You might also want to advise your employer that you are pregnant at a much earlier stage if you have concerns that your job may be a health risk to your baby.

You work with some chemicals that you think may be harmful. Your manager says you shouldn’t worry. What can you do?

Your employer is 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 you but not necessarily in writing. If your employer fails to carry out the risk assessment, they may commit an act of unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination. If the assessment identifies a significant risk, your employer must alter the working conditions to avoid it and if that is not possible offer other suitable alternative work or ultimately suspend you on full pay if that is not available.

You have been suffering a lot from morning sickness and your boss says You have triggered the company policy on sickness absence and they are going to discipline you. Is this fair?

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.

You had been intending to ask to work part-time when you returned from maternity leave but you are finding working increasingly tiring as your pregnancy progresses. Can you ask now?

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 your 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.

You have been employed for over a year now with no problems at work. Since you told your manager that you are pregnant they have started raising “concerns” about your work. What can you do?

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.

Can you refuse to travel as part of your work now that you are pregnant?

If you have a pregnancy-related illness which travel exacerbates or there are health and safety reasons as to why travelling is not a good idea, then you should notify your employer so that they can carry out a risk assessment. This may result in them adjusting your job description and duties so you no longer have to travel. If there is no reason why you cannot continue to travel, then if you refuse to do so, this might result in disciplinary action.

Can you sue your employer for pregnancy discrimination?

Yes. It is unlawful to discriminate against a pregnant woman or because you have a pregnancy-related illness. Your protection against pregnancy discrimination starts at the point you become pregnant.

Contact us today on 01273 609911, or email info@ms-solicitors.co.uk to find out more.

Martin Searle Solicitors, 9 Marlborough Place, Brighton, BN1 1UB
T: 01273 609 991 info@ms-solicitors.co.uk

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