FAQ: pregnancy and your rights at work

Date last updated: 16 November 2017

Your rights at work if you're pregnant

We’ve put together some of the most frequently asked questions Gingerbread advisers have received from single parents-to-be about rights at work during pregnancy.

For lots more information, tips and how-to guides see 'Power to the Bump' - a resource for pregnant workers from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission

Q. If I lose my job while I’m pregnant and have to claim benefits, will I have to look for a new job?

My daughter has a 6 year old son and is expecting a baby in August.  She has a partner but they don’t currently live together.  She is about to be made redundant as the Leisure Centre where she works is going to be demolished and a new one built.  My question is – does she have to sign on as being available for work?  She has a history of miscarriage, the most recent last year.  Please would you advise the most likely benefits scenario, she could do without the stress of looking for a new job or having to go temping.  She lives in England.

A. The benefits your daughter can claim will depend on a number of things including whether she’s a single parent, when she’s made redundant, her work history and her income and savings. 

Also, in some areas, a new benefit called Universal Credit has replaced some of the benefits and tax credits that a single parent can claim.

Benefits such as child benefit, child tax credit and housing benefit can be paid if she’s entitled to them whether or not she looks for work. Once she is 29 weeks pregnant, she may be able to get other benefits such as maternity allowance, income support or universal credit without having to look for work. However before she’s 29 weeks pregnant, she’ll normally be expected to look for work to claim jobseekers allowance or universal credit.

If she can show that she has a health condition that means she would have a limited capability for work. She can claim employment and support allowance or universal credit on this basis. She’d have to provide a certificate from her doctor and may have to attend a medical assessment as part of her claim.  It’s also possible she could be treated as having limited capability for work if she’s pregnant and there’s a serious risk to her or the baby’s health if she doesn’t refrain from work.

Your daughter can ring our free helpline on 0808 802 0925 to talk to one of our advisers about the benefits she can claim.  She may find our maternity pages useful as well as the Power to the Bump campaign which has lots of information about health and pregnancy in the workplace, including being made redundant during pregnancy.

Q. I’m pregnant and every time I go to an antenatal appointment my colleagues and even my manager make snide comments about it. Do I have to show them proof of my appointment and am I entitled to time off during work?

A. It’s pregnancy discrimination to make unpleasant comments about taking time off for antenatal care.

You’re entitled to paid time off for antenatal care once you’ve given your employer confirmation of your pregnancy such as your MAT B1 form. Antenatal care not only includes medical appointments but also things like antenatal classes and parenting classes if they’re recommended by your doctor, midwife or health visitor. You should provide proof of these if your employer asks you to do so.

If you feel able to, explain to your manager that you are entitled to time off for antenatal care and that these comments are upsetting. This can be difficult and you could ask for help from a union representative if you have one. You could also speak to your human resources or personnel department if you would prefer not to raise it with your direct manager. You can find out more information about your rights to time off during pregnancy at Power to the Bump.

If this treatment continues you can put in a grievance against your manager. You can get advice on how to this from the Acas Helpline.

Q. I’ve just found out I’m pregnant and I’m a care worker.

My job is a lot of lifting and very physical and I’m worried that it will affect my pregnancy. What will happen if I can’t do my job? I can’t afford to lose it if I’m on my own with a baby.

A. Employers who employ women of childbearing age have a duty to carry out a general health and safety assessment to identify risks to pregnant women.

Once you’ve told your employer in writing that you’re pregnant, and there’s evidence of risk arising from your work, they have to carry out a personal health and safety assessment for you. This involves checking your job for any health and safety risks to you or your baby, such as the risks of heavy lifting or carrying.

Once the risks have been identified, your employer must make adjustments to your working conditions to avoid the risks if this is possible and reasonable. For example, this could include making changes to your role during your pregnancy so that you don’t do lifting or other heavy physical work that could put you or your baby at risk.

If your employer can’t make suitable adjustments, you should be offered a suitable alternative job on similar terms and conditions, which is reasonable and safe for you to do. If there’s no reasonable alternative job, or no safe job, you must be suspended on full pay for as long as necessary to avoid the risks. You can find more information at Power to the Bump.

Q. I’m pregnant and think I’ll get fired from work.

I work in a beauty salon and when one of us gets pregnant the manager makes up fake complaints about them so she has an excuse to get rid of them. I go on maternity leave next week and won’t be around to see what she says about me. Is she allowed to fire someone if they’re pregnant?

A. It’s unfair dismissal and pregnancy/maternity discrimination to select a woman for redundancy or dismiss her because she’s pregnant or on maternity leave.

If your employer does dismiss you for this reason then you can make a claim for automatic unfair dismissal and pregnancy/maternity discrimination. There isn’t any qualifying period before you can make a claim as you’re protected from your first day of employment. You need to contact Acas Early Conciliation on 0300 123 11 00 before making a claim to an employment tribunal.

There are strict time limits for starting a claim in an employment tribunal. You must apply to the tribunal within three months less one day of the event that you are complaining about. It’s sometimes possible to apply later but only for very good reasons.

The Power to the Bump campaign has lots of material about health and pregnancy in the workplace including being dismissed. You may also find our maternity information package useful as it’s got information about your rights at work and benefits you might be entitled to.

Q. I’m a single parent on maternity leave and I’ve just heard there is a restructure going on at my work and there might be redundancies.

My friend told me they can’t make me redundant when I’m on maternity leave. Is this true? Do I have any protection as I’m scared I’ll lose my job?

A. Unfortunately, it’s possible to be made redundant whilst on maternity leave. 

However, redundancy and dismissal is quite a complex area of employment law and there’s some additional protection for those who are pregnant or on maternity leave.

Although employers can reorganise work so they need fewer employees, they must use fair selection criteria and can’t automatically choose you because you are on maternity leave or for another reason connected to your maternity leave.  Also while on maternity leave a woman who is made redundant should be offered any suitable alternative vacancy that exists.

The Power to the Bump campaign has more information about your rights in the workplace  including  redundancy during maternity leave.  For advice you can ring the Equality Advisory Support Service on 0808 800 0082.

Maternity Action

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