Working Hours and Your Rights during Pregnancy
In England and Wales, it is unlawful discrimination for employers to treat women less favourably because of their pregnancy, or because they take or inform their employer they intend to take maternity leave.
If your employer is trying to reduce your working hours without your permission, because you are pregnant, then they may be breaching the terms and conditions of your contract of employment (if you have one). Whether you’re an employee or an agency worker, you should get legal advice from an Employment Law Solicitor.
You have legal rights while you are pregnant at work, and they protect you from unfair treatment, unfair dismissal, to make sure the work you do is safe, and allow you time off for antenatal appointments.
For free initial legal advice get in touch with our Employment Law Solicitors.
Pregnancy / Maternity Rights at Work
The main legal rights you have when pregnant at work are:
- Maternity leave
- Maternity pay or maternity allowance
- Paid time off for antenatal care appointments
- Protection against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal.
Pregnant employees are entitled to 52 weeks Statutory Maternity Leave if they give the correct notice. You must tell your employer about your pregnancy by the 15th week before your childbirth, so your employer can make adequate provision for your pregnancy.
The terms and conditions of your contract of employment must not be changed without your agreement, otherwise, this is a breach of the contract.
You must also be given time off for antenatal care, and be paid at the same rate for this time off work.
To be able to take this time off, however, you’ll need a MAT B1 certificate from your midwife or doctor. Give this to your employer and from 20 weeks into your pregnancy you can take paid time off for antenatal care.
Is There Such a Thing as Maternity Discrimination?
Yes. Under the Equality Act 2010, if someone treats you unfairly because you are pregnant, breastfeeding or because you have recently given birth, you have been discriminated against.
You can take action in the Employment Tribunal if you feel you have been a victim of pregnancy or maternity discrimination, though under the law, you must suffer a disadvantage as a result of the unfair treatment.
It is also unlawful if you are made redundant or dismissed from your job because you are pregnant or take maternity leave. If there is a genuine redundancy situation at work during your maternity leave your employer is obliged to give you ‘first refusal’ on any suitable alternative roles.
In a similar vein, if you’ve applied for a job, you are not obliged to mention your pregnancy, but if you were offered the job and then the offer is withdrawn because they find out you are pregnant, then you may have a claim for pregnancy / maternity discrimination at work.
Health and Safety During Pregnancy
Your employer must assess the risks posed to you by your job. Risks could be caused by:
- Heavy lifting or carrying
- Standing or sitting for long periods without adequate breaks
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Long working hours
Talk to your employer and inform them of any needs you may have. Pass on any advice your midwife or doctor has given you.
If your work is not safe, then there are 3 steps your employer should take to remove any risks. All these steps apply whether you’re an employee or an agency worker.
- Change Your Conditions – To remove any risks. A more comfortable chair or altering your work hours, allowing you to work from home.
- Give You Different Work – Your employer should offer you different work to do, avoiding any heavy or unnecessary lifting. Your pay must stay the same, even if you’re doing less work.
- Stay at Home – Until your employer has removed any risks present in your job, you have the right to stay at home and be paid in full. Your employer can’t change the nature of your job because of a risk at work either.
How Simpson Millar Can Help You
We understand that claiming for pregnancy or maternity discrimination at work can be an emotive and sensitive area. So from the outset, we’ll handle your case sensitively. If you want to proceed with your case, we can approach your employer about the discrimination you suffered in relation to a compensation settlement.
Our Employment Law Solicitors are down-to-earth, friendly and pragmatic. We offer a reliable and prompt service, ensuring we’re available when you have a query, even outside normal office hours.
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