Working mums your rights when expecting
Congratulations you’re having a baby, what an exciting time. Pregnancy can be a busy time for working parents, so we want to make sure you understand your employment rights. Take some stress away as you prepare for the birth of your child and step into maternity leave with our helpful guide.
- When should you inform your employer you’re pregnant?
- Maternity leave start and end dates
- Shared Paternity and Maternity Leave
- Paperwork: Your MAT B1 Form
- Employee rights
- Return to work
- Breastfeeding and expressing when returning work
When should you inform your employer you’re pregnant?
It can be daunting for expectant mums to inform their employer that they are pregnant, however, to be covered by the employment rights you’re allowed as an expectant mother you should tell them as soon as your comfortable doing so. The earlier you tell your employer, the more support they can give you, such as time off for doctor and midwife appointments and concession if your feeling unwell.
It is up to you to inform your employer when you are ready but, you do need to tell your employer about the pregnancy at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week the baby is due.
Once you have informed your employer, you have four main legal rights:
- Paid time off for antenatal care
- Maternity leave
- Maternity pay or maternity allowance
- Protection against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal
Your Rights: The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against someone or treat them unfairly, because of pregnancy or maternity.
Additionally, your employer has to assess the risks to you and your baby in the work environment and take reasonable steps to remove any such as:
- Heavy lifting or carrying
- Standing or sitting for long periods without adequate breaks
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Long working hours
Mitigating the risks can mean offering you different work and changing your hours, in a case where they can’t mitigate the risks your employer should suspend you on full pay. If you think you and your baby are at risk in your job, but your employer disagrees, then you can talk to your doctor, trade union representatives or Health and Saftey Executive.
Remember it’s against the law to discriminate against anyone because of being pregnant.
If you think your employer is discriminating against you in your workplace due to your pregnancy, you should talk through the concerns with your employer, and you can bring a colleague or trade union official with you. If you do not find a satisfactory solution or still believe you’re being discriminated against you can bring a claim against your employer at an employment tribunal.
Maternity leave start and end dates.
Statutory Maternity leave for eligible employees is up to 52 weeks, you don’t have to take the full 52 weeks of maternity leave, but you must take two weeks maternity leave after your baby is born, this is four weeks for factory workers. Your statutory maternity leave of 52 weeks is made up of the following:
Ordinary Maternity Leave – first 26 weeks | Additional Maternity Leave – last 26 weeks
Shared Paternity and Maternity Leave
New parents now may be able to share parental leave, previously maternity leave for the mother was up to 52 weeks and up to two weeks for paternity, now eligible couples can share leave with their partner. If a mother doesn’t take all of her ordinary and additional maternity leave, her partner may be able to take the remainder of the 52 weeks.
Eligible parents; A mother takes 12 weeks of her leave and pay, then returns to work, the partner is then able to take the remainder of the 52 weeks left: 40 weeks under shared parental leave.
For new parents, SPL and ShPP must be taken between the baby’s birth and first birthday (or within one year of adoption).
Paperwork: Your MAT B1 Form
For you to be able to claim maternity pay and benefits, whether your employed or unemployed, you need to complete the Government issues MAT B1 form. It provides medical evidence of your pregnancy and is completed after 20 weeks of pregnancy by your midwife. A completed MAT B1 Form will enable you to claim for your Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance.
Make sure you make a copy of your MAT B1 form and then you can give it to your employer, making sure its at least 28 days before you want to claim Statutory Maternity Pay.
During Maternity Leave your employment rights such as pay, holidays and returning to a job are protected, this includes being offered a suitable alternative vacancy if you are made redundant during maternity leave. You also have the right to ask for flexible work and not be forced to return to work early, with the right to take your full 52 weeks.
Once your employer knows you are pregnant, you are protected against discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy which covers you until the end of your maternity leave.
Return to work
You only need to inform your employer you are returning to work if you plan on returning before the end of your maternity leave. If you wish to return early you must give your employer eight weeks notice; you can change when you return to work within the 52 weeks. If you planned on returning earlier, but have changed your mind, you can change your return date, but you need to give your employer at least eight weeks notice before your old return date.
When returning to work after maternity leave of 26 weeks or less your employer must allow your return with the same pay and conditions as you were before, they can not stop you from returning to the same job because its considered dismissal and maternity discrimination. When returning after taking 26 weeks or more your employer must let you return to work and back into the same job role, they can only offer you a different job role with a strong reason. You cannot be dismissed after maternity leave if your job still exists, or it would still exist if you had not gone on leave, or if they offer you a new role if its something your not able to do or has worse pay and conditions.
If you are made redundant while on maternity leave, you have extra rights, make sure your employer is following the rules when it comes to redundancy.
Breastfeeding and expressing when returning work.
When you return to work after your maternity leave, you may still be breastfeeding your baby. Your employer is required by law to provide somewhere for a breastfeeding employee to feed her child if she can or express milk if she is not with her child, the area must also have an option for the employee to ‘lie down’ and rest.
Its important you discuss breastfeeding with your employer before you transition back to work if you plan on continuing to breastfeed your baby. Your employer would need to find a good schedule to work around, a space for breastfeeding as mentioned above and also designating an area in communal fridges for expressed breast milk.
Your employer is not legally obliged to provide breastfeeding breaks. However they still need to meet their health and safety regulations, flexible working and discrimination laws for breastfeeding mothers.
Make sure your rights are not abused when you are pregnant, on maternity leave or when you return to work. We hope you found our guide useful for more information on your rights when expecting and on maternity leave and pay, explore the YouGov website.