Understanding your maternity rights at work

Understanding your maternity rights at work

New born baby and parents breastfeeding week 2019

You may be going through a roller-coaster of emotions whilst you are pregnant and as a new mother. World Breastfeeding Week highlights the need to support parents and their choices. A mother may decide to breastfeed and therefore would look to get all the support she can get, from family and friends, whilst taking her baby out and also options that are available at work.

What are the principal rights for employees and workers relating to pregnancy, maternity and breastfeeding?

These rights reflect the statutory minimum entitlements and employers are always free to agree more favourable contractual terms with their staff.  It is not however possible for an employee to agree to less favourable terms than the statutory rights provide. 

The key pregnancy and maternity rights are:

  • Time off for antenatal appointments.
  • Health and safety protection whilst pregnant and breastfeeding.
  • Up to 52 weeks maternity leave. Employees are entitled to one year’s statutory maternity leave made up of ordinary maternity leave and additional maternity leave and this is regardless of their length of service.
  • Statutory maternity pay for up to 39 weeks.
  • The right to return to the same or similar job.
  • Priority for alternative employment in redundancy cases.
  • The right to request flexible working conditions on return to work. This could be to help you continue to breastfeed your baby and return to work.
  • Protection from dismissal or discrimination by reason of pregnancy or maternity
  • Agency workers will qualify for time off for antenatal appointments (after 12 weeks) and from discrimination and statutory maternity pay.

Proposals for reform for pregnant women and new mothers

Earlier this year, the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published a consultation document on extending the redundancy protection for pregnant women and new mothers.  On 1 May 2019 the Women and Equalities Select Committee published its response supporting the proposed extension and calling upon the government to implement the reform as soon as possible.  As a result, the Pregnancy and Maternity (Redundancy Protection) Bill was introduced to Parliament on 21 May 2019. This seeks to prevent employees from being made redundant during pregnancy, maternity leave and for 6 months after the end of maternity leave except where the business closes.

On 22 July 2019, the government published its response to the consultation and has committed to bring forward the legislation “when parliamentary time allows”.  If the legislation is passed, this will mean that redundancy protection will apply from the moment the employee notifies her employer that she is pregnant until 6 months after the end of her maternity leave.

This would clearly be a substantial change and require employers to take note and seek advice accordingly.

For details of this and any other employment law issues please contact specialist employment solicitor Paul Grindley on 0113 320 5000 or email your enquiry to paulg@winstonsolicitors.co.uk

If you feel you may have experienced pregnancy discrimination you can use this simple pregnancy discrimination calculator to check the award you may be entitled to.