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Pregnancy At Work

Employment Lawyer Jodi Hill
By Jodie Hill

 

Just Found Out You’re Pregnant?  What to Do Now?

Finding out that you’re pregnant is one of the most exciting and life changing situations you can experience.  However, once the news sinks in, there are lots of practical considerations to be made.

One of these is to tell your employer that you are pregnant.  Legally, you don’t need to tell your employer of your pregnancy and intention to take maternity leave until the 15th week before your baby is due.  This is called the notification week (if this isn’t possible for example because you didn’t know you were pregnant, your employer must be told as soon as possible).  Many women announce their pregnancy at the end of the first trimester (at about 12 weeks), as at this time the risk of miscarriage is greatly reduced and a growing bump may not be easy to hide.

There are various benefits to telling your employer sooner rather than later:
  • Your employer’s specific duty of care relating to your pregnancy does not come into effect until informed of your pregnancy
  • Once your employer knows of your pregnancy you are entitled to reasonable paid time off for your antenatal care
  • You are protected against unfavourable treatment because of pregnancy-related discrimination. Your employer must record any pregnancy-related sickness separately so that it is not used against you in any disciplinary, redundancy or dismissal decisions
  • The more planning and preparation you (and your employer) do before you leave, the easier both of you will find it when you return.  For example, it’s a good idea to plan your annual leave well in advance
  • An earlier announcement will enable all those involved to support you and the operational requirements of your organisation
So….what do you need to tell your employer?
  1. When you intend to go on maternity leave
  2. That you want to receive statutory maternity pay
  3. The date you plan to start your maternity leave. The earliest your maternity leave can start is 11 weeks before your baby is due (if the baby arrives early, maternity leave will start the day after the birth) – you can always change this date but its good to give one early doors to help both sides plan!

Statutory Maternity Leave

The 52 weeks of SML are made up of ordinary maternity leave for the first 26 weeks and additional maternity leave for the last 26 weeks.  You don’t have to take the full 52 weeks but you must take 2 weeks’ leave after your baby is born (or 4 weeks if you work in a factory).  – see last month’s post if you want to share this leave with your partner.

What do I get paid???

Always check your contract and staff handbook to see if you get paid contractual maternity leave.  Unfortunately, so many companies don’t pay this anymore leaving expectant mothers only with Statutory Maternity Pay.

What’s Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)?!

SMP is paid for up to 39 weeks.  You get:

  • 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
  • £140.98 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks

SMP is paid in the same way as your wages (for example monthly or weekly).  Tax and National Insurance will be deducted.  If you don’t qualify for SMP, you may be able to claim maternity allowance. https://www.gov.uk/maternity-allowance/how-to-claim 

To qualify for SMP you must:
  • Earn on average at least £113 a week
  • Give the correct notice (this is covered in the first paragraph)
  • Give proof that you’re pregnant (something from your Doctor will do, or a scan if you have one.)
  • Have been employed by your current employer continuously for at least 26 weeks up to the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (so when you are giving notice you should have been employed with no breaks for over 26 weeks)
Booking annual leave in advance

As you continue to accrue annual leave during your maternity leave, you may return to work with a lot of annual leave owing to you.  You could consider giving notice to end your maternity leave early (you need to give eights weeks’ notice if you’re not taking all of your maternity leave) and taking some paid annual leave or using your annual leave to create a phased return to work, for example taking two days off per week.  You must agree any annual leave with your employer in the usual way (this is usually set out in your contract of handbook as to how you do this).  You cannot always carry annual leave forward into a new leave year unless your employer allows it so it’s a good idea to plan when you are going to take your leave so that you don’t lose it.

Useful links:

The Government’s Maternity Planner can help you find out if you can claim maternity, paternity and shared parental leave and how much you will receive – link to https://www.gov.uk/pay-leave-for-parents

Using the NHS pregnancy to-do list is a useful way of making sure you keep on track throughout your pregnancy – link to http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/to-do-list-pregnant.aspx

Maternity allowance:  https://www.gov.uk/maternity-allowance/how-to-claim

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