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Maternity Pay, Pregnant Employee Rights and Pregnancy Related Dismissals

Wainwright Timms LLP is a boutique law firm specialising in employment law and licensing law, based in the City of London.

Pregnant employees are entitled by law to paid time off for antenatal care, maternity leave, maternity pay and protection against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal. A pregnant employee is legally required to inform their employer of the pregnancy at least fifteen weeks before the baby is due and tell them when they wish to begin their Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay.

Once an employer has been told that an employee is pregnant, they must assess the risks that the work poses to both the woman and the baby and take reasonable steps to remove them. These risks include heavy lifting or carrying, exposure to toxic substances and long working hours. If the risks cannot be removed, the employer should suspend the employee on full pay.

In the event that an employee has to stop working for pregnancy related health problems four weeks before the baby is due, maternity and Statutory Maternity Pay will begin automatically, regardless of any prior agreements. Moreover, an employee is legally required to take two weeks off after the baby is due if they have not taken Statutory Maternity Leave.

Statutory Maternity Leave can last up to fifty-two weeks. It consists of ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’ for the first twenty-six weeks, and ‘Additional Maternity Leave’ for the remaining twenty-six weeks. Generally, an employee can only begin Statutory Maternity Leave eleven weeks before the expected week of childbirth. However, leave automatically begins the day after the birth of a baby or if the employee is off work due to a pregnancy-related illness four weeks before the baby is due. An employee is still entitled to Statutory Leave and pay if the baby is born prematurely, if it is stillborn after the twenty-fourth week of pregnancy or if the baby dies after being born.

Once an employee begins their Statutory Maternity Leave they are still entitled to pay rises, accrued holiday and to return to work. In order to return to work, an employer must be given at least eight weeks notice.

How we can help

We can advise you on all aspects of maternity rights and also paternity rights. If you feel that the work you do poses a threat to either you or your baby and that your employer has not taken reasonable steps to counteract it, please contact us for legal advice.