Key Rights for a pregnant employee are:
- Time off for antenatal appointments;
- Additional Health and safety protection while pregnant and breastfeeding;
- Up to 52 weeks' maternity leave. Employees are entitled to one year's statutory maternity leave (made up of ordinary maternity leaveo (OML) and additional maternity leave (AML), regardless of length of service;
- Statutory maternity pay (SMP) for up to 39 weeks;
- The right to return to the same job (in most cases);
- Priority for alternative employment in redundancy cases;
- The right to request flexible working conditions on return to work;
- Protection from dismissal, detriment or discrimination by reason of pregnancy or maternity.
Key Dates for your diary...
Now you know the key rights of a pregnant employee, you must familiarise yourself with the key dates. The first being the protected period which begins when a woman becomes pregnant and ends:
- If she has the right to Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) and Additional Maternity Leave (AML), at the end of the AML period or (if earlier) when she returns to work after the pregnancy.
- If she does not have that right, at the end of the period of two weeks beginning with the end of the pregnancy.
Expected week of childbirth (EWC)
The EWC is the week, measured from Sunday to Saturday, in which childbirth is expected to occur. It will be confirmed on a certificate (MAT B1) given to the employee by her doctor or midwife. Many of the employee's rights are calculated by reference to her EWC, regardless of whether birth in fact occurs earlier or later.
Childbirth means the birth of a living child or a still birth after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Compulsory maternity leave
All employees must take a minimum of two weeks' maternity leave starting with the day on which childbirth occurs or four weeks for factory workers. An employer will be guilty of a criminal offence if it allows an employee to work during compulsory maternity leave.
Ordinary maternity leave
OML is a period of 26 weeks' leave available to all employees, regardless of length of service, who give birth and comply with a number of notification conditions:
- Informing employer of pregnancy by the 15th week before EWC or;
- Her EWC; and
The above only applies to employees whether they are full time or part-time, fixed-term or permanent, and is not available to the self-employed or those who come within the statutory definition of worker.
Additional maternity leave
AML follows immediately after the end of OML and lasts for up to a further 26 weeks, giving a total entitlement of 52 weeks' statutory maternity leave. Since 1 April 2007, all employees who qualify for OML have automatically also qualified for AML, regardless of their length of service.