Rights of pregnant workers


I am pregnant. What are my employment rights?

You have the right to:

  • Be paid time off for ante-natal care
  • 52 weeks maternity leave no matter how little time you have been employed there
  • If you have worked for your employer for 26 weeks by the 15th week before the baby is due you are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) for 39 weeks. You may qualify for Maternity Allowance if you do not qualify for SMP.
  • continuation of the contract of employment, except for pay
  • Come back to your old job after basic Maternity Leave. After Additional Maternity Leave you are entitled to return to the same job unless that’s not reasonably practicable, but then have the entitlement is to return to a similar job
  • protection from adverse treatment or termination of employment, including redundancy, on any grounds partly or wholly related to pregnancy
  • 13 weeks’ unpaid parental time off work until the child’s 5th birthday, or, if the child is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance, 18 weeks’ unpaid time off work until the child’s 18th birthday
  • dependants’ time off work, where appropriate
  • request flexible working hours.

Partners of pregnant women and adopting parents may be entitled to paternity leave.

What time off work am I entitled to in relation to maternity?

Pregnant employees have a right to reasonable paid time off for antenatal care. The law also provides for 52 weeks’ maternity leave which is applies from day one of employment.

What notice do I need to give if I want to takematernity leave?

You must notify your employer that you will be taking Ordinary Maternity Leave no later than the end of the 15th week before your child is due and you must give your employer the information in writing if they request it. Your notice must state:

  • that you are pregnant
  • the expected week of childbirth
  • the date that you intend your Ordinary Maternity Leave to start

Once I’m on maternity leave, do I have to let my employer know that I’m returning to work?

However, if you want to return to work earlier than 52 weeks, you must give your employer 56 days (8 weeks) notice of your intention. If you fail to do this your employer can refuse to pay you.

Your employer must give you 56 days’ notice of when your maternity leave period is due to end.

You have legal protection if:

  • Your employer fails to give you notice of your return date and then attempts to dismiss or discipline you when you fail to return on that date
  • Your employer gives you less than 56 days’ notice of the date that your maternity leave period would end, and it was not reasonably practicable for you to return to work on that date.

Can I work flexible hours when I return from maternity leave?

There is no an automatic right to reduce hours, work part-time or flexibly.

Am I entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)?

There are 3 conditions in order to get SMP:

  • You must have been employed for at least 26 weeks by the end of the qualifying week (i.e. by the end of the 15th week before the week the baby is due) and;
  • You must still be in this employment in the qualifying week and;
  • You must have been paid at least the Lower Earning Limit (for mothers of babies born on or after April 2011 this is £102) per week on average in the 8 weeks (if you are paid weekly) or the 2 months (if you are paid monthly) up to the last payday before the end of the qualifying week.

To receive SMP you must give your employer 28 days’ notice of the date that you want the pay to start on and you cannot change your mind about this date.

Your SMP can start on any day of the week that you choose and in most cases will start on the same day as your maternity leave period starts.

To claim your SMP, you must give your employer a copy of your MAT B1 form – your maternity certificate which states your expected week of childbirth which your midwife or GP will give you when you are about 20 weeks’ pregnant. You may find it easier to give your notice for your leave and pay together in the 15th week before the baby is due. However, if you decide to do this you must remember that you cannot change the date that your pay starts on, even if you decide to vary the date that your leave begins on.

I have been dismissed because I am pregnant. What can I do?

If you are dismissed while pregnant, or during maternity leave, your employer must give you a written statement of the reasons for the dismissal. If you are unhappy with these reasons and you want to make a claim against your employer, or if you think you have experienced unfavourable treatment because of pregnancy or maternity, get legal advice immediately.

By virtue of section 18 of the Equality Act 2010 women can claim damages if they are treated less favourable than their colleagues. This includes being harassed, passed over for promotion, disciplined or dismissed on grounds that are wholly or partly related to pregnancy.

You may also have a claim for compensation for sex discrimination: under section 11 of the Equality Act 2010 women are likely to have a good claim in many cases of less favourable treatment because of pregnancy or maternity.

In all of these circumstances you should get advice. You should do this sooner rather than later as there are strict time limits involved in bringing cases.