29 Sep My employee is pregnant – What do I need to do?
Once you are notified that one of your employees is pregnant, there are several responsibilities you have as an employer. Foremost to ensure that they are protected from discrimination and able to work safely during their pregnancy.
Risk Assessments for pregnant employees
All employers who employ women of child-bearing age, who undertake work that could put them at risk, are required to include an assessment of these risks – even before any employees declare pregnancies. These risks could include work-related stress, long working hours, lifting and carrying, working with hazardous materials and working in an excessively noisy environment.
Once an employee has confirmed their pregnancy in writing, there is a specific obligation on the employer to ensure that the identified risks are removed or prevented. It is your responsibility to ensure that the employee is informed about the risks and the actions that you have taken to protect them. Communication is key to this process!
It is vital, that if you are unable to avoid the risk to your pregnant staff member, for you to make changes to their working hours or working conditions if it is practical to do so. If this is not possible, you must instead offer the staff member an alternative and suitable work position at the same rate of pay. Ultimately, if this is also not possible, the responsibility falls to you to suspend the staff member on paid leave for a long as it is necessary to protect the staff member.
Attending Antenatal Appointments
It is a statuary requirement that all expectant staff members are allowed paid time off to attend antenatal care, regardless of how long they have worked for you. ‘Antenatal care’ is a broad term and is not defined by legislation. As well as covering medical appointments, it could also include parenting classes. If they have been recommended by a medical professional, they are considered to fall under the category of antenatal care.
You are within your rights to ask for evidence of antenatal appointments and there may be times where it is reasonable for you to refuse your employee time off. These include:
- when very short notice has been given
- when you can’t cover the employee
- when the appointment is non-urgent and could be arranged outside working hours
Statutory Maternity Pay
If your employee has 26 weeks of continuous employment 15 weeks before their due date, and if they earn more then £113 a week before tax, they are eligible for SMP. The SMP payments can begin from 11 weeks before the employee’s due date unless she notifies you of her desire to start them at a later date. Ideally, this should be done in writing. There are times when SMP may start earlier than this – such as if the baby is born early or if the employee is absent from work due to her pregnancy on any day falling on or after the 4th week before the baby is due to be born. It is also important to consider whether the staff member has accrued annual leave and when this will be taken.
If your staff member is not eligible for SMP, you must inform her as soon as possible so that she can apply for Maternity Allowance instead.
Protection against unfair treatment, discrimination, and dismissal.
An employee cannot be dismissed because she is pregnant. This is not a reason for dismissal. If an employee is dismissed during her pregnancy, written reasons must be provided.
Women may also not be discriminated against in terms of maternity-related sickness. Pregnancy-related absence and maternity leave must not be factored into any decisions relating to promotions or performance management reviews. Doing so would constitute maternity discrimination. Any disciplinary procedures in place for staff absence must not be applied to pregnancy-related illness.
Are you confident in your maternity and paternity policies? If you’d like support or a free policies and procedures review get in touch today.