Pregnant employees have several rights which an employer cannot refuse. These include:
If you feel that your employer is not aware of your legal rights, or has treated you differently because you are pregnant, then you should seek expert advice from an employment lawyer immediately.
As well as growing physically, pregnancy involves expansion of the vocabulary by learning lots of new words. Unfortunately, UK law contains a hotch-potch of terms which are similar-sounding but not interchangeable, and some rights do not apply to all new mothers.
The total entitlement is 52 weeks, divided into two parts: the first 26 weeks are ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’, and the last 26 weeks as ‘Additional Maternity Leave’.
The earliest that Ordinary ML leave can begin is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth, unless the baby is born early, when it starts automatically.
The full entitlement does not need to be taken, but no pressure should be applied by the employer for the employee to come back to work sooner.
On health and safety grounds, even if she agrees, the employee is not allowed to return to work until at least 2 weeks after the birth, or 4 weeks if in a factory or similar manual job.
After the leave has started, there is a duty on the employer to notify in writing the latest date that the leave can run to. The employee can choose to return before that, but must give at least 8 weeks’ notice of this.
If the baby dies, the entitlement to leave remains, if this occurs after the 24th week of pregnancy.
Statutory Maternity Pay is paid for a maximum of 39 of the 52 total leave entitlement, but the amount changes:
Tax and National Insurance need to be deducted from these. But the employer has the SMP reimbursed to them.
However not all employees qualify for SMP – they must have been:
Employees who are not entitled to SMP may be able to get Maternity Allowance instead if they have made enough National Insurance contributions. This lasts for a maximum of 39 weeks.
This is far easier to summarise – all employment right (e.g. bonus, holiday pay, pay rises) which are given to others must be passed on after maternity leave, anything short of this potentially gives rise to a claim of discrimination.
In a redundancy situation, there is also a positive duty on the employer to offer any available role first to anyone returning from maternity leave. But if there are a number of redundancies, an employee on maternity leave can still be dismissed.
Our team of expert Employment Lawyers can meet with you, discuss every aspect of your case, advise you about what options are available to you, and guide you through every step of the process. This can range from giving you advice, to writing to your employer to try and fix the problem, to bringing a claim at the Employment Tribunal. Call us on 0141 429 8166 or complete our online contact form.
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