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New mums in the workplace

A new survey reveals that a quarter of mothers feel they have been discriminated against at work, either while pregnant or when returning to work after having a child. Many feel they are subjected to archaic attitudes but it is worthwhile looking into the rights that new or expectant mothers have in the workplace.

 All new mums are entitled to up to a year of maternity leave which is the case however long they have worked for their employer. This comprises 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and another 26 weeks of additional maternity leave with the full 52 weeks being termed statutory maternity leave.

During pregnancy

Women who are working while pregnant have a right to be paid for antenatal care and their employers must protect their health and safety.

There are four main rights which employees have in relation to their pregnancy, these are:

Paid time off for antenatal care

 This is where the appointment is recommended by a registered doctor, midwife or health visitor and can include medical examinations and antenatal classes. The employee cannot be ordered to make up the time she has missed and equally cannot be told to take the antenatal care as annual leave. The amount of time taken must be reasonable in the circumstances. The woman taking the time off for antenatal care should be paid at her usual hourly rate for the time taken. Also, an employee should not be dismissed for a reason connected to the taking of time off for antenatal care.

Maternity leave

The woman can choose when her maternity leave is to start and it can be taken any time from the 11th week before the baby is due. From the fourth week before the baby is due the leave will start automatically if they have time off for any reason connected to the pregnancy. Most workers will be entitled to 52 weeks but they can choose how long up to that maximum. The employee must also take at least two weeks immediately after the baby is born, or at least four weeks if working in a factory.

Maternity pay

Assuming, at the 15th week before the baby is due, that you have been working for the same employer continuously for at least 26 weeks before that date and earning at least £109 a week, you will be eligible for statutory maternity pay. For the first six weeks of your maternity leave you will be entitled to equal to 90% of your average weekly earnings before tax. Then, for the next 33 weeks, you will be entitled to £138.18 a week or 90% of your earnings if this is less.

Protection against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal

The law states that a woman must not be treated less favourably on the grounds of her pregnancy or because she wishes to take maternity leave. For this to be proven the woman must show that “but for” her pregnancy she would not have been dismissed or treated less favourably. All employees, whatever their status, are protected by sex discrimination law from the first day of their employment.