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What to expect when you're expecting

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Being pregnant is an exciting and memorable time in a woman’s life, but it can also result in additional stress as some expectant mothers juggle work with nausea, discomfort, pain, antenatal appointments, financial concerns and job security worries.

Pregnancy and maternity is a protected characteristic which means the employee cannot be treated unfavourably as a result of their pregnancy or because she is on or exercises her right to maternity leave. It is unlawful discrimination to dismiss an employee because she is pregnant, or to refuse to employ someone because she was or might become pregnant.

What rights does a pregnant employee have?

Pregnant employees are entitled to the following;

  1. 2 weeks’ compulsory maternity leave following the birth of their child.
  2. Up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave, regardless of the amount of time the employee has worked for the employer.
  3. Statutory maternity pay for up to 39 weeks, provided the employee has at least 26 weeks of service with the employer at the end of the 15th week before the child’s due date AND provided she earns the lower earnings limit (£116 per week).
  4. Protection from being dismissed, discriminated against or treated unfavourably as a result of the pregnancy or being away on maternity leave.
  5. The right to have reasonable time off for antenatal appointments and the right to request flexible working on her return to work.
  6. Health and safety protection whilst pregnant/breastfeeding.
  7. The right, in limited circumstances, to return to the same job following maternity leave and to be considered first for suitable alternative employment, in particular, in the case of redundancy.

Legislation has introduced the benefit of Shared Parental Leave that now entitles an employee on maternity leave to share up to 50 weeks’ leave with the other parent. Provided both employees give at least 8 weeks’ notice to their employers, the parents can share the mother’s entitlement of 50 weeks separately or in alternating blocks.


Employees that are pregnant, want to have a baby, or are already on maternity leave can rest assured that there are steps they can take if their employer does not comply with their obligations.

If you are pregnant or on maternity leave, or would like to discuss this article in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Employment Team.

This article is not a definitive statement of the law. It is designed as a free update on the law at the time of publishing. It is not a substitute for legal advice on specific facts and circumstances. BakerLaw LLP and/or the writer accepts no liability or responsibility for reliance on this article and recommends that you seek independent legal advice on your specific circumstances prior to taking any steps.