Pregnancy and your rights

This information was correct at the time of writing - always double check with the relevant authority to ensure you have the very latest information.

As a result of being pregnant you will have certain 'rights' associated with taking time off and medication.

"The Qualifying Week"

This is the 15th week before your baby is due. It is a term used when talking about maternity leave and maternity pay.

Your working environment

  • It is your employer’s responsibility to provide you with a safe working environment. By law they must carry out a full risk assessment on your duties and working conditions. If your job poses a risk to your own or your baby’s health, then they must either remove the risk or offer you an alternative job (on no less favourable terms).  If this is not possible then you must be suspended on full pay.
  • You must also be allowed to take time off for any antenatal appointments.
  • You cannot be sacked or made redundant because you are pregnant or on maternity leave. If you think you have been discriminated against then you need to make a claim to the Employment Tribunal within a 3 month period.
  • You are also entitled to take all annual leave you have outstanding before you take your maternity leave.

Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML)

All female employees have the right to OML, regardless of how long you have worked for your employer, although this may not be paid leave. OML lasts for 26 weeks and can be taken from 11 weeks before your due date. You must give your employer at least 28 days notice of you commencing your OML.

If you baby is due after the week commencing 1st April 2007, you can start your maternity leave when you choose.

Additional Maternity Leave (AML)

AML allows you to take a further 26 weeks after OML. You must have been in your job for at least 26 weeks by the Qualifying Week. If you do not wish to take AML then you need to give your employer 28 days notice of your early return to work. It is your employer’s responsibility to give you the date of your expected return in writing.

If your baby is due after 1st April 2007, you can take AML no matter how long you have worked for your employer, providing you give the correct period of notification.

Working during Maternity Leave

If your baby is due on or after the 1st April 2007, you can work for up to 10 days during your maternity leave without losing any maternity pay. But you cannot work for the two weeks following the birth.

Returning to work

  • Your employer must seriously consider any request for flexible working hours. You must state to them what you are asking for and when you wish to commence with this amended working pattern. Your employer must then arrange a meeting to discuss your application. You are entitled to an answer within 14 days of the meeting. If they refuse your request then you have 14 days to appeal against their decision.
  • Following OML you are entitled to return to the same job.
  • Following AML you are entitled to return to the same job or one with as favourable terms and conditions.

Paternity leave

Paternity leave allows new dad’s to take 2 weeks leave following the birth of their baby. It is paid at the same rate as basic SMP. As with maternity leave you must have worked for your employer for 26 weeks by the Qualifying Week. You must also have given your employer 28 days notice of when you wish to take this. It must be taken within 56 days of the baby’s birth.

This can be taken by:

  • The baby’s biological father.
  • Or someone who assumes parental responsibility; such as a husband or partner or same sex partner.