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How do I deal with sick leave and time off for a pregnant employee?

It’s essential to respect a pregnant employee’s rights: unfair treatment could result in a claim of sex discrimination and unfair dismissal.

Pregnant employees are entitled to paid time off for antenatal care such as medical appointments. A pregnant employee may also need extra sick leave for pregnancy-related illnesses. In any case, once you know an employee is pregnant you should take steps to remove any risks that the work could harm her or the baby. If you cannot offer safe work, you should give the employee paid time off.

A pregnant employee is entitled to take up to 52 weeks statutory maternity leave. The employee should give you notice at least 15 weeks before the birth is expected, telling you when she wants to take her maternity leave. Maternity leave can start any time from 11 weeks before the expected birth. In any case, the mother must take two weeks off once the baby is born (or four weeks if she works in a factory).

While your employee is on maternity leave, she continues to earn holiday entitlement in the normal way. So an employee who takes 52 weeks maternity leave will also have earned her normal holiday entitlement for a year. You may want to allow her to add this holiday on at the end of her maternity leave.

The employee is entitled to statutory maternity pay (SMP) for up to 39 weeks of maternity leave (but as the employer you can usually reclaim most or all of this from HM Revenue & Customs). SMP is paid at 90% of the normal earnings for the first six weeks, and then at the lower of 90% and £138.18 a week. The employee’s contract can offer more generous terms.

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