Employment Law: How to Support Pregnant Employees Throughout the Year

Employment Law: How to Support Pregnant Employees Throughout the Year

Posted  14th July 2022

This summary is based on Judicium’s HR ‘Sofa Session’ from the 13th of July, with our resident expert Jenny Salero, LLB (Hons), L.P.C. This session focused on the rights of pregnant employees, your rights as an employer to manage sickness, performance and capability concerns during pregnancy and when you can commence maternity leave automatically.

How Prevalent is Employee Pregnancy in Schools (Poll)

With 86% of sofa session attendees answering yes, the results show how prevalent pregnancy amongst staff is within schools. As employers, it is imperative you uphold pregnant staff members rights as well as knowing your own rights.

Rights of Pregnant Employees 

1. Right not to be discriminated against (on the basis that they are pregnant or are going to take/are taking maternity leave)

  • The Equality Act 2010 provides a framework to protect people from discrimination and highlight 9 protective characteristics, including pregnancy.
  • The protected period runs from the date of which the member of staff notifies the employer of the pregnancy until the end of additional maternity leave and return to work.
  • The employee should notify you of the pregnancy before the end of the 15th week of pregnancy.
NB: Prior to this notification, the employee is not entitled to time off for antenatal care, their benefit of the protected period and you are not required to have a risk assessment in place.

2. Pregnancy Risk Assessment

  • As soon as you are made aware an employee is pregnant, you must begin the process of a pregnancy risk assessment.
  • Speak with your health and safety provider about putting the RA in place. (Judicium offer a RA library in conjunction with it’s health and safety service.)
  • There is a duty for employers to continually review risks to pregnant mothers and babies.

 3. Right to time off for antenatal care

  • Pregnant staff have the right to paid time off for the purposes of receiving antenatal care (regardless of their work hours or length of service).
  • It is not restricted to medical appointments only and can include relaxation or ‘parent-craft’ classes, provided a medical practitioner has recommended them.
  • Employees should provide as much notice as possible about antenatal appointments and employers can ask staff for evidence of these appointments.
  • Employers can request for staff to arrange these appointments at the beginning or end of the workday when possible to minimise disruption.

 4. Partners to attend appointments

  • In September 2014 legislation extended the right for time off to attend antenatal appointments to the partners of pregnant women. (Pay is discretionary)
  • They are entitled to attend up to two appointments for a maximum of 6.5hrs each.

Rights of Employers 

These are key areas to be mindful of and ways to provide support to staff who are pregnant.

1. Interviews (Internal and External)

  • Although it may seem obvious, it is important to be aware that you cannot refuse to interview a member/potential member of staff because they are pregnant.

2. Rights of employer to manage:

  • Sickness
    • If you do have a pregnant member of staff who is absent due to a pregnancy related issue, e.g., morning sickness, hyperemesis, etc., you must log these absences separately for the purpose of trigger points.
    • You must also apply your normal sick pay policies and procedures.
  • Disciplinary
    • This procedure can still be robustly managed despite the employee being pregnant.
    • If a disciplinary issue does arise with a pregnant member of staff, you must deal with it in the same way as you would any other employee as soon as reasonably possible.
    • You can make adjustments and offer support when needed.
  • Appraisals/Capability
    • Appraisals should run as normal throughout the pregnancy.
    • If an appraisal does fall within the employee’s time off, if it is reasonable line managers can request to move the appraisal forward or ask for any required information prior to the start of maternity leave.
    • You should be managing performance/capability issues during the pregnancy.
  • Redundancy or Restructure
    • Often people forget to include people who are pregnant or on maternity leave in their restructure plans.
    • There are additional protections for staff on maternity leave under the maternity and parental leave regulations. For more information on these please see our previous sofa session notes here.
    • If a member of staff on maternity leave is selected for redundancy, and you have an alternative role, that member of staff must be offered the role.

3. Don’t forget about promotions!

  • Always include pregnant employees in communications about opportunities for promotion and additional responsibilities.
  • Don’t make assumptions! – Just because the employee is pregnant does not mean they would not be interested in the role or responsibilities.

4. Planning for maternity leave

  • Have conversations with your pregnant staff member about how you will be contacting them whilst they are on maternity leave.
  • Employees have a duty to remain reasonably contactable as employers must have a means to share important information and arrange KIT days.

5. Triggering maternity leave maternity leave automatically

  • If the employee is off sick in the four weeks before the expected date of childbirth for a pregnancy related reason, we, as employers, can trigger maternity leave early.
  • This is discretionary and something to bear in mind when looking at handovers, cover, etc.

    5 Top Tips for Employers with Pregnant Staff 

    1. Make sure a risk assessment is undertaken as soon as we become aware of the pregnancy and that we keep this under review

    2. Do not include any pregnancy related illness when looking at trigger points or managing attendance.

    3. Do not be afraid to manage disciplinary or performance concerns when a member of staff is pregnant.

    4. Do not discount or forget to inform pregnant staff of promotions or the opportunity to take on additional responsibilities when they are pregnant.

    5. Agree how you will contact the member of staff before they go on maternity leave.

    Helpful Links:

    EHRC Pregnancy and Maternity Guidance - https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/our-work/managing-pregnancy-and-maternity-workplace

    Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations – https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1999/3312

    If you’d like to review Judicium’s forthcoming sofa sessions for the remainder of this academic year please click here

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    © This content is the exclusive property of Judicium Education. The works are intended to provide an overview of the sofa session you attend and/or to be a learning aid to assist you and your school. However, any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in any form is prohibited. You may not, except with our express written permission, distribute or exploit the content. Failure to follow this guidance may result in Judicium either preventing you with access to our sessions and/or follow up content.

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