Pregnancy/ maternity leave FAQs

Key points

  • Any unfavourable treatment because of your pregnancy or maternity leave is discrimination.
  • However, your employer does not have to pay you in full when you are off with pregnancy related sickness (unless other employees would be paid full pay when sick) or while you are on maternity leave.
  • You are entitled to return to the same job after ordinary maternity leave (the first 26 weeks).
  • You are also entitled to return to the same job after additional maternity leave unless this is not ‘reasonable practicable’ for your employer, in which case you are entitled to a suitable alternative job on no less favourable terms.
  • Selecting a woman for redundancy because she is pregnant or on maternity leave will be discrimination. If you are given notice of redundancy while on maternity leave, you are entitled to be offered any suitable available job ahead of other employees not on maternity leave.

When should I tell my employer that I am pregnant?

It is usually best to tell your employer of your pregnancy at a fairly early stage.  This is because you are only protected from unfavourable treatment because of your pregnancy if your employer knows that you are pregnant.  For example:

  • If you are suffering from pregnancy related sickness, so have to take time off, you must not be treated less favourably as a result. 
  • If your employer suspects you are pregnant and then dismisses you because of this, the employer may then argue that it was unaware of your pregnancy.
  • Your employer should carry out a risk assessment and make appropriate adjustments once it knows you are pregnant.

Can my employer take work away from me because I am pregnant and will be on maternity leave?

Your employer should not treat you unfavourably in any way because you are pregnant.  Of course, coming up to your maternity leave, work may need to be reallocated or covered by a locum. But unless you agree, you should continue working as normal unless you cannot do so for health and safety reasons.

I am worried that my working conditions will be harmful to me and my baby: what can I do?
Once you have told your employer you are pregnant, it should carry out a risk assessment to assess whether there are any work risks that could affect you and/or the baby.   If there are risks, for example because the job involves heavy lifting, your work should be varied to remove the risk. If this is not possible you should be offered an alternative job.  If neither of these is possible you are entitled to be suspended on full pay.

I am having bad morning sickness so I do not feel well enough to work
Once your employer knows that your sickness is because of your pregnancy, it must not treat you unfavourably if you take time off sick.  You should not be criticised or disciplined for being off for this reason.  However, you are only entitled to be paid the same sick pay that would be paid to other employees off sick.

Soon after I told my boss I am pregnant, she told me I am at risk of redundancy
It is unlawful pregnancy discrimination and unfair dismissal to dismiss you for redundancy because you are pregnant. 

I have not received an annual pay rise or bonus while I have been on maternity leave. What can I do?
You should receive a pay rise in the same way as any other employee, though you may not receive the full benefit of it until you return from work.  You should be paid the same bonus as other employees for the period up to your maternity leave, for the two weeks compulsory maternity leave and for the period after you return.  Unless your contract states otherwise, generally you will not be entitled to a bonus for any period where the bonus is attributable to performance during the period of your maternity leave.

I am on maternity leave and have been told I am at risk of redundancy. What should I do?

Your employer should:

  • Consult you about the redundancy;
  • Consider which employees should be pooled and considered for redundancy;
  • Carry out a fair and non-discriminatory selection procedure; and
  • Offer you any available suitable alternative work if you are to be made redundant during your maternity leave (this should happen without you having to  compete for the post unless you are competing with another woman on maternity leave and there is only one suitable post available).

You need to consider whether:

  • There is a redundancy situation at all or whether you think your pregnancy / maternity leave is the reason;
  • The selection criteria are relevant, transparent, objective and measurable and do not disadvantage you because of your pregnancy or maternity leave; and
  • There are any suitable alternative jobs.

I am just back from maternity leave and find that although I have the same job title, I am not being given the same work and responsibilities. What can I do?
You are entitled to return to exactly the same job after the end of your ordinary maternity leave. If you are given a different job or fewer responsibilities and this is because you have been on maternity leave, this is discrimination.  You may want to raise this with your employer informally, put in a grievance and/or if you do not feel you can remain, resign and claim unfair and discriminatory constructive dismissal.   However, think carefully before resigning as there is never any guarantee that you will win a claim in the tribunal.

The first day I returned to work I was told that I was at risk of redundancy and could go home
Sadly, this is quite common. Some employers wait until the employee returns as her automatic right to suitable available work only applies if she is made redundant while on leave.  However, if the delay is deliberate and you have been disadvantaged because of your maternity leave, this is discrimination.  For example, you may have missed out on applying for suitable jobs.
If the reason for the redundancy is because you were on maternity leave this is unfair and discriminatory.

When do I have to start looking for work if I have been dismissed but am still on maternity leave?
You have a duty to ‘mitigate’ your loss by looking for other work. However, you would not be expected to do this until you have recovered from the birth.  If you were planning to take only 6 months leave it is best to start looking a month before this, even if you cannot go to interviews for a while.  You should keep a record of all your attempts to find work.