From bump to back at work – everything you need to know

In a survey by OnePoll* it was identified that almost half of the women questioned were nervous about telling their boss they were pregnant, with 78% of them accepting their job without asking about the company’s maternity policy.

The good news is as a pregnant or new mum there is legislation to protect you. So what do you need to know about your rights and responsibilities? Andrew Kerrigan, solicitor at QualitySolicitors Burton & Co, has provided his top five things you’ll need to know.

1 Telling your employer

It’s up to you when you tell your boss you’re pregnant, but you will need to have told them by 15 weeks before your baby is due (about 25 weeks pregnant), which is when you legally need to give notice of when you want to take your maternity leave. The same notice period applies if you’re the father, wanting to take paternity leave.

Many women like to wait until they're past the 13 week stage, but if you're worried parts of your job could be dangerous to your pregnancy, you might want to tell your employer sooner, so they can make provisions for your health and safety whilst you’re pregnant.  

2 Time off

Your employer must not unreasonably refuse your requests for paid time off for ante-natal appointments. Unfortunately, if you’re the father, you don’t currently have the same rights, but some employers will provide this, so it’s always worth asking.

3 Maternity leave and pay

You can ask for your maternity leave to start at any time from 11 weeks before your due date, right up until the baby is born. Your employer can also start your maternity leave if you are absent from work for pregnancy related reasons in the four weeks before your official due date.

The maternity pay you get depends on whether you’re employed or self-employed, how much you earn and how long you have been working. Some employers choose to enhance the maternity pay you receive. Refer to your employee handbook or speak with your HR department to find out more.

You will be entitled to take up to 52 weeks’ leave. You must take at least two weeks’ compulsory leave (or four weeks if you work in a factory). The first 26 weeks of leave is known as Ordinary Maternity Leave. The 26 weeks after this is known as Additional Maternity Leave. During this time you will continue to be eligible for any employee benefits and to build up holiday entitlement, just the same as you would if you were at work.

During your maternity leave your employer may make reasonable informal contact with you to keep you informed of what’s going on at work and arrange your return. The law also allows for up to 10 keeping in touch days, where you can work, without bringing your maternity leave to an end. This could be helpful for training days and staff updates, but would need to be agreed by you and your employer in advance.

4 Returning to work

Your employer should keep your job available when returning after ordinary maternity leave. However, if you decide to return after additional maternity leave, you can return to the same job, if it’s reasonably practical, otherwise you should be offered a similar job on the same terms and conditions. If your employer doesn’t do these things, talk to them to find out why. And if that doesn’t help, you may want to consider speaking with a solicitor to see if there are other steps available in your circumstances.

If you decide not to return to work after maternity leave, you just need to give your normal notice, in the normal way. You won’t have to pay back any statutory maternity pay you have received, but any enhanced benefits from your employer may have to be.

5 Flexibility

As a new parent, you have the right to request flexible working arrangements if needed. This will follow a formal process, so try to start any discussions about this well before you return from maternity leave. In addition to this, you’ll also be able to take a reasonable amount of time off (unpaid) to deal with an emergency or illness involving your baby. 

If during your pregnancy or when you decide to return to work you need help with any legal matters or employment issues, please get in touch. At QualitySolicitors we provide a Free Initial Assessment service, so you can call us for a chat to find how we can help.

*The survey was conducted by OnePoll on behalf of QualitySolicitors. 1000 working women who have either had children, considered pregnancy or see it as a possibility in the future were surveyed between 4th-6th March 2013.

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