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Rights of pregnant women involving employment maternity

Date: (27 November 2012)    |    

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Women say that they have been treated unfairly by their employers because of pregnancy and employment maternity issues. It seems in fact that there were some areas in the employment law where the employers fell short fulfilling their duties possibly inadvertently.
Pregnant employees or those on maternity leave have many key rights in accordance with employment law which includes up to 52 weeks of maternity leave regardless of their period of service, statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance if service is not long enough, full benefits allowed during maternity leave, time off for ante natal classes (paid), dismissal on grounds of pregnancy or maternity related issues not allowed if there is a redundancy situation a suitable role should be given in preference to other employees, not to be discriminated and the right to return to the same job after a period of ordinary maternity leave (26 weeks) on the original terms and conditions.
The last condition may be more difficult returning after additional maternity leave but any alternative role should be a reasonable equivalent on the same terms and with the same status.
Pregnant employees are required to give their MAT B1 to their employers which they receive at 26 weeks pregnancy. This would give the expected date of delivery which would allow both parties to plan ahead.
The employee can go off on maternity leave at any time from the 11th week before the expected week of confinement. They could even work right up to date of delivery although that is not advisable. Maternity leave can start on any day of the week. Whilst on maternity leave the legislation allows for up to ten keeping in touch days where the employee can come into work. This is ideal for training purposes or to remain in touch with key developments in their job.
Whilst on maternity leave they accrue holidays which can be taken after their maternity pay period ends and before they return to work.
Some employers fill the gap of maternity posts with fixed term workers where the contract should have a clear date of termination with clear purpose of the cover. Employers should beware of preferring to keep the fixed term employee in the role in addition to the returning employee which could be termed as discriminatory. If at all the fixed term worker becomes pregnant during their contract they would be entitled to statutory maternity pay with sufficient continuous service and it would be payable even after the contract has ended either as a lump sum or subsequent continuous payments.
Though frustrating for employers sometimes a female employee may fall pregnant again immediately but law allows for this to happen. They are still entitled to full maternity leave although maternity pay may be affected as this is calculated on previous earnings.
The perception that employment redundancy is legally dangerous in case of a pregnant employee is not entirely true, but if there is a clear reason for the redundancy situation then it may not be a problem. Still employers need to be careful that they do not single out any pregnant employee or employee in maternity leave for redundancy and should beware of other possible discriminatory treatment. Any dismissal procedure needs to be undertaken fairly and legally.
Employers need to be seen to be treating employment maternity cases with fairness when leaves are to be sanctioned failing to do so would mean penalties and huge employment tribunal compensation.