Danielle Ayres, Employment Law Solicitor at Gorvins Solicitors
Each year thousands of women face unfair discrimination in the workplace as a result of being pregnant or choosing to take a period of maternity leave.
Many face unfair treatment from employers and work colleagues, whether it is after they tell their boss about their pregnancy, whilst they are on maternity leave or when they return to work.
Below are a few of my top tips as an employment lawyer to help you understand your legal rights when you are pregnant or on maternity leave.
1) Planning Effectively and Clear Lines of Communication
The first port of call should be to have a discussion with your employer.
Discussing your employment rights and entitlements with your boss is excellent practice – share your plans and ask to see the maternity leave policy (if there is one). Things you might want to discuss together include: a possible finishing date and how long you expect to take off. None of these need to be set in stone, but it will help greatly to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings along the way. It will help you to know exactly where you stand and assist your employer too as they will be able to plan and manage your pregnancy and leave accordingly.
2) Time off for antenatal appointments
Once you have informed your employer that you are pregnant, you have a right to paid time off during working hours for the purpose of receiving antenatal care, regardless of your length of service or the number of hours you work. Your partner can also accompany you to the appointment.
Antenatal care is not restricted to medical examinations, it can include relaxation classes and parent-craft classes, provided that these are recommended by a medical practitioner, midwife or health visitor.
3) Risk Assessments
A workplace risk assessment should be carried out as a result of your pregnancy and your employer is under an obligation to try and remove or prevent exposure to any significant risk that has been found as a result of this assessment. In the vast majority of the cases, it’s likely that nothing will need to change.
It’s also important to have the assessment reviewed at regular intervals during your pregnancy in case you require certain adjustments as the pregnancy progresses, such as a different chair, to be placed on lighter duties or be able to work from home.
4) Keeping in Touch
Before your maternity leave commences have a chat with your boss/HR manager to discuss how much contact you want and the best method of getting in touch with you whilst you are absent from work.
It’s possible for an employee on maternity leave to carry out up to 10 days’ work without bringing your maternity leave or pay to an end. These are called Keeping in Touch Days, or KIT Days.
Participation in KIT days are completely voluntary and you do not have the right to work without your employer’s consent. KIT Days, however, are a useful tool for both parties, as they are a useful way for you to keep in the loop and they can also be planned to coincide with important meetings or training sessions.
You should be informed of vacancies and promotion opportunities which arise during your maternity leave and should also be sent information about social events, training courses and receive any newsletters of bulletins which are sent to other members of staff.
5) Your Return to Work
If you take up to 26 weeks’ leave and no more, you have the right to return to the same job as you had prior to going on leave. If you have taken over 26 weeks or more, you have the right to return to the same job, unless it is not reasonably practicable for you to do so. If it is not, appropriate suitable employment must be offered to you on no less favourable terms than the job you held before.
It is good practice for your employer to keep you informed of any proposed changes to your role whilst you are away on maternity leave, such as if a redundancy situation arises or there is a restructuring of the company for example.
To discuss your pregnancy or maternity leave situation with Danielle, contact her on 0343 507 5151 or visit her Keeping Mum page to get in touch.