Congratulations, you have just found out you are expecting a baby. Often the happiest time of our lives (minus the sickness and swelling tummy), it should not be clouded by maternity discrimination in the workplace. There are several rights that expectant employees are entitled to, and it is up to the employer to ensure a continuously safe working place for those employees. But what do you do when you are faced with unfair treatment?
This month, Herries-Smith solicitors look into your maternity rights and when you should speak to an employment solicitor if things are not going to plan.
Telling your employer that you are expecting a baby
There are many reasons why you should be telling your employer that you are pregnant. You must tell your employer 15 weeks before the beginning of the week the baby is due, or if you don’t find out until later than this, then as soon as you know. The health and safety of any expectant working mother are paramount, and the employer must assess any risks that could bring the employee or their baby harm whilst in the workplace. These risks could include:
- Heavy lifting
- Standing or standing for long periods without a break
- Long working hours
- Exposure to toxic substances
It is the duty of the employer to take reasonable steps to remove the risks posed to the employee and discuss changes with the employee to ensure their safety during pregnancy.
Not only is the employer expected to assess any risks in the workplace consistently, but several other maternity rights should be upheld legally throughout the employee’s pregnancy and after they have given birth.
Pregnancy and maternity rights at work from your employment solicitor
There are five primary maternity rights that an employer should abide by when they have a pregnant staff member. Failure to uphold these rights could be considered a breach of contract, and if you are facing this, we recommend getting in touch with an employment solicitor to discuss your case. Herries-Smith is an expert employment solicitor who is ready to take your call and support you during this difficult period.
Five main maternity rights
- Changes in the contract – no changes should be made to a pregnant employees employment contract with prior discussion and agreement with the employee in question.
- Paid time off for antenatal – As a pregnant employee, you can take time off for antenatal appointments, whether a scan, check-up or medical appointments. You are also entitled to take paid time off for parenting or relaxation classes if a Dr or midwife has recommended this. You have a right to this paid time off if you are entitled to maternity leave, and your employer cannot make you work extra hours to make up any lost time.
- Maternity leave period – If you work for an employer, you are entitled to 1 year of maternity leave no matter how long you have worked there. This is generally 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave. You also have parental rights during your maternity leave.
- Maternity pay/allowance – Statutory maternity pay is the standard type of pay you will receive from an employer if you are entitled. This pay is the legal minimum that an employer can pay you. Maternity allowance will become applicable if you cannot get statutory maternity pay from your employer. The government will pay for your maternity allowance if you are entitled.
- Protection against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal – It is against the law to discriminate against anyone because they are pregnant. Failure to protect a pregnant employee who is being subjected to discrimination or unfair treatment in the workplace could lead to an employment tribunal.
Pregnancy and maternity discrimination within the workplace
According to NCT, 54,000 new mums lose their jobs in the UK every year. One in five have experienced harassment or adverse comments, and one in ten were treated worse when returning to work. Being pregnant is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, and it’s, therefore, illegal to discriminate against someone for being protected. Known as maternity discrimination, it’s an unfortunate but true statement that many pregnant employees feel they are receiving unfair treatment or being unfairly discriminated against because they are pregnant.
There are four main types of maternity discrimination in the workplace:
Victimisation – Being mistreated because you have made or supported a complaint about pregnancy, maternity or breastfeeding discrimination.
Harassment – Unwanted contact related to your pregnancy causes a distressing or offensive environment for you.
Direct discrimination – Maltreatment due to you being pregnant, on maternity leave or breastfeeding.
Indirect discrimination – If your employer works against those who are pregnant and does not make reasonable adjustments.
If you are a pregnant employee and feel you are being unfairly treated, get advice about discrimination law and how to handle your current situation from an expert employment solicitor. Herries-Smith is here to support you and your concerns from beginning to end and are only a phone call away if you need support with maternity discrimination in the workplace.
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Speak to your employment solicitor if you are being discriminated against for being pregnant
Suppose you face any of the concerns mentioned above. Being a pregnant employee can be stressful enough when trying to juggle your work duties with all the symptoms and pains that pregnancy can bring. If you are experiencing discrimination in the workplace, this will only add to your stress levels and could be harmful to you and your baby. In that case, we urge you to get legal advice from experienced solicitors about your employment rights and maternity rights whilst in the workplace or on maternity leave.
With over 25 years of experience in employment law, Herries-Smith solicitors are your local solicitors based in Marlow. The latter has a tremendous amount of experience working with employees faced with maternity discrimination. For more information or to contact us today, please give us a call or complete the enquiry form, and we will be in contact.