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During your pregnancy

Telling your boss

pregnant woman at work
You don’t actually have to tell your boss, except to get maternity leave. But, apart from the fact that they might wonder at your increasing bump, it’s often best to do this in writing. This is because as soon as you’ve told them, they have a responsibility to take extra care of your health and safety. They also have to give you time off for antenatal appointments or pregnancy-related sickness.

If you tell your boss before you want to tell other people, make it clear that you expect them to keep it quiet.

Health and safety

As soon as you’ve told your boss you are pregnant in writing, they have a duty to do a health and safety assessment if there is reason to think there is any risk to you or your baby because of the type of work that you do. Many employers do it is a matter of course, but if yours doesn’t, you can ask for one if you have any concerns.

Ask your midwife what sort of problems you might have. It’s not just about lifting heavy things; some women get back pain if they have to stand a lot, others can’t lift even quite light things. There may also be a risk if you work with chemicals or other dangerous liquids.

Your assessment should look at all these things, and you should be involved in it. If there is anything to be concerned about, your boss needs to find ways to remove or reduce any risk. This might be by temporarily changing the work that you do (you should still get the same pay), or changing your hours. If you can’t be moved to a suitable role or your hours can’t be changed in a way you that could manage, you should be sent home on full pay.

Ask Bev

Ask Bev!

The manual says that pregnant workers will be given a health and safety check. I have never had one, should I remind them?

Your boss should already be managing health and safety issues if he has women of childbearing age in the workplace. You must inform your boss that you are pregnant, then he must consider any particular health and safety risks which may affect you. You should remind your boss immediately and let him know if there are any issues that affect your health (or might do).

He should keep checking how your health is throughout your pregnancy and adjust your work if needed. I would suggest that if your boss does not keep checking on your health, you should politely remind him to.
Once a month I have to go to meetings at the other end of the country. It is 4 hours each way and the travelling really tires me out now. Is there anything I can do?

That’s a lot of driving in one day. Health and safety law states that excessive driving is a common risk during pregnancy. Your boss has a duty to carry out a risk assessment on you as soon possible after you let him/her know you are pregnant. Presumably you have had one of these, if not you should ask for one straightaway. If you have had one then your boss will still need to consider making changes to your work pattern if your health is put at risk. If you are driving for 8 hours in one day, it is no surprise that you are getting tired.

Why don’t you get a letter from your GP saying that you need to stop that particular part of your job during pregnancy? If you can't do this for some reason, then write to your boss and tell him/her that the driving is tiring you out because you are pregnant. Ask him to change that part of your job whilst you are pregnant, and offer to do other duties that aren't a problem. You're not asking for special treatment, it's their job to make adjustments to help you to continue working.
I’m a waitress and so I’m on my feet all day, rushing around with heavy trays. I am really exhausted by the time I get in, and I often feel sick. Do you think there is anything I can do?

You need to ask your boss to carry out a risk assessment straight away which he then has a duty to do. Once s/he has done one, s/he should realise that what you are doing is unsafe because you are running around with heavy items and because it is making you ill. Write to him and let him know how you are feeling. Then he will need to think of ways to help you. He might suggest giving you different jobs which are less physically demanding, allowing you to sit down or take lots of breaks, or changing your hours. If he doesn’t suggest anything sensible, you might want to do so yourself.
If your boss cannot think of other ways to help you then, legally, he may have to consider suspending you from work on full pay.
I asked my boss if I could come in late because I have an appointment with my midwife. She asked me why I couldn’t see the midwife on a Thursday (I don’t work Thursdays). Is that right?

Your boss could try to make you take appointments outside working hours if it is reasonable. But if your midwife can't give you an appointment on a Thursday, your boss should let you take the time off. You shouldn't have to make the time up.

But if for example, you only worked one day a week, and you could go to an appointment on one of the other 4 days, it might be reasonable for you to fix the appointment for a day when you are off.
One of my colleagues has started making comments about how I’m really slow. She is a nice woman but it makes me feel really awkward, as if I’m causing more work for the others. What am I supposed to do?

It’s unfortunate when people make comments like this. You might want to just take her to one side and tell her how the comments make you feel. If, as you say, she is a nice woman she might well stop. If she does not stop, then use your organisation’s grievance procedure to complain. You’ll find details of this in the office manual or staff handbook.

Comments like this could show that she is blaming your pregnancy for what she sees as you slowing down. This may amount to sex discrimination, so if your boss doesn’t sort it out, you could take your complaint to an Employment Tribunal.

Time off

If you are off sick because of your pregnancy, make sure your boss isn’t writing it down as normal sick leave. If you get any sick notes from the doctor – make sure s/he says that it is related to your pregnancy on the notes. This kind of sick leave can’t be counted in any decision to make people redundant or sack them. You should still get your normal sick pay, unless your baby is due in less than 4 weeks (for these purposes, weeks start on a Sunday). If you have less than 4 weeks to go, your boss can insist you start your maternity leave (and therefore your SMP or Maternity Allowance) early.

Time off for antenatal careYou are allowed to take extra time off for antenatal appointments with your doctor, mid-wife or health visitor. This includes relaxation classes and antenatal classes, like 'parentcraft' or those run by the National Childbirth Trust. Your boss shouldn’t ask you to make the time up later and you should be paid as normal. After the first appointment, your boss can ask for evidence of the appointment and a certificate proving you are pregnant.

Unfair treatment and unkind words

You shouldn’t be treated less well because you’re pregnant, or because you need to take time off or change your work because of it. If you are, it is discrimination and it is illegal. Whether it is your boss or a colleague who is causing the problem, your employer has a responsibility to stop it. If they don’t, you could take the case to an employment tribunal.

If you think you may be being discriminated against, you need to get advice. See How to find an adviser. See Further help.

Getting the sack

Getting the sack because you're pregnantSome people think it is illegal to sack anyone who is pregnant. Unfortunately, this isn’t correct. You can be sacked while you are pregnant, but it cannot be because you are pregnant (or because you will go on maternity leave). That would amount to discrimination and possibly unfair dismissal, and you could make a complaint to an employment tribunal. If you are sacked, your employer has to follow the rules for dismissing someone and must give you the reasons in writing. See 'Links to other websites' for more details.

Pregnant women can also be made redundant (once you are on maternity leave you do have special protection). But the decision to make you redundant, rather than anyone else, cannot be based on anything to do with your pregnancy. In fact, in certain situations, your employer should give you priority over another employee for any other suitable positions. If they have factored in any time you have had off as a result of your pregnancy (including any related sickness) or the fact that you will be taking maternity leave, they are breaking the law. You need to get advice. See How to find an adviser.

Ask Bev

Ask Bev!

I am being made redundant. I think it is because I am having a baby.

Oh dear, I hope this isn't what is happening! From what you can see, do you think that your boss needs to make you redundant, or has he created the redundancy because you are pregnant?

If this is a real redundancy situation, your boss should be able to show that he has followed a fair procedure and that he has discussed the situation with you over a period of weeks. He should have explained why he is making you redundant rather than any other employee. He should have given you a copy of the things he considered (the selection criteria) before deciding to make you redundant. You should be given an opportunity to say whether you think the things he based his decision on were fair.

If you do not think that a fair process was followed, you need to show that your boss is making you redundant because you are pregnant. Your boss should have given you the right to appeal; you should do this. If your boss does not change his mind, it might be possible for you to make a complaint of unfair dismissal and sex discrimination to an Employment tribunal.

If you are made redundant during your maternity leave or adoption leave you have the right (no matter how long you have worked there) to be offered suitable alternative work (if there is any) before other staff provided it is reasonable to do so. The work should be of the same or similar type to the work you were doing before. And you have a right to receive the same pay and conditions as you had in your old job.

If your boss offers you another job that is suitable, and you refuse it without a good reason, it could hurt the chances of any complaint about unfair dismissal or discrimination you make.

April 2011

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