What Do I Do If My Employee Gets Pregnant?
Women make up nearly half the UK workforce and over 75% will become mothers during their working lives. Understanding the legalities, HR processes and having an effective family friendly or maternity policy in place can only help both your business and your employee make this period as smooth and stress free as possible.
Crucial First Steps
It’s natural to be concerned about the impact to your business and continuing to meet your business requirements if an employee tells you she’s pregnant. By being prepared, professional, reassuring your employee of her value and demonstrating your understanding of the way forward, you can help manage the transition for everyone.
It’s key that you help your employee understand her obligations of what to provide in writing and when.
You’ll need to set up a meeting, plan the transition and if necessary complete a risk assessment…….and of course don’t forget to congratulate your employee!
Only by sitting down together will you be able to understand any specific medical advice she may have received and get to grips with those initial key dates such as due date, dates of antenatal appointments, provisional maternity leave dates and return to work dates. Flexibility will be key, babies rarely turn up when expected!
What You and Your Employee Should Know
Your employee must tell you about the pregnancy at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week the baby is due. If this isn’t possible, then as soon as possible after this time.
As an employer, you should know your pregnant employee has four key legal entitlements:
Paid time off for antenatal care – which aren’t just medical appointments and may include antenatal or parenting classes if recommended by a doctor or midwife.
Maternity leave – this can be up to 52 weeks. The first 26 weeks is known as ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’, the last 26 weeks as ‘Additional Maternity Leave’. As a minimum you should understand your employee must take at least 2 weeks after the birth (or 4 weeks if they’re a factory worker).
Maternity pay or maternity allowance – depending on their terms of employment with you, 39 weeks could be paid, either as statutory maternity pay, maternity allowance or contractual maternity pay.
Protection against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal – your employee has the right to return to their original job or a suitable alternative. As Employers, you can’t change your pregnant employee’s contract terms and conditions without agreement – if you do, you are in breach of contract.
Health and Safety for Pregnant Employees
As soon as you’re told, as the employer you’ll need to assess the risks to the employee and their baby. Whether the potential risk comes from heavy lifting, standing or sitting for long periods, exposure to toxic substances or long working hours, you’ll need to take reasonable steps to remove them.
Sometimes offering the pregnant employee different work or changing their working hours can make all the difference.
Planning For Handover
Don’t forget that maternity leave will affect more than just your pregnant employee.
Colleagues may be expected to take on some of their work or help train a new member of staff, so care may be needed when breaking the news to the rest of the team.
Finally, make sure that you agree dates and create a handover plan, keep in touch plan, performance review and back to work plan, with input from colleagues.