So you’ve just found out you are having a baby. Everything is exciting, new and you are looking forward with great anticipation to the pregnancy and the birth of your child. It can be devastating to find out that your employer does not feel the same way about your pregnancy, and shocking to discover that women are still being discriminated against because they are pregnant. Before you start making the shopping lists for organic clothing for babies and pushchairs, make sure you know your rights.

When do I tell?

In most cases, it is entirely up to the mother when she decides to tell her employer that she is pregnant. In order to qualify for maternity pay, you must tell your employer by the end of the 25th week of pregnancy. Your employer has the right to request a certificate, which your midwife will give you. If however you are in a job which could pose a risk to you or your unborn child, you should tell your employer earlier and ask them to carry out a risk assessment. For example, a technician in an X-ray department may have her duties switched away from her department, or someone whose job involves heavy lifting may be switched to light duties.

Starting maternity leave

Again, it is up to the individual employee to decide when she wishes to start her maternity leave. Some women choose to work right up to their due date, others prefer to finish early and enjoy the last few weeks at home. You cannot start maternity leave any earlier than the 29th week of pregnancy, and you must give your employer sufficient notice in writing of when you intend to leave. Employers also have to give you time off work for any antenatal appointments, but can ask to see proof of these. Sloping off to browse over baby clothes on work time is therefore not allowed.

Maternity pay

Check with your human resources department and ask to see the company’s maternity policy. Many companies top up the maternity pay offered by the government, but there may be conditions attached such as going back to work for a certain time after the maternity leave ends. The statutory minimum pay is 6 weeks at 90% of your normal wage followed by 20 weeks at the current statutory rate, details of which can be found on the HMRC website. Paid leave is followed by an additional 26 weeks of unpaid leave, meaning the total time off can be a year. Rates and entitlements are constantly changing, so make sure any information you refer to is up to date.

Returning to work

By law, you must take two weeks’ leave after the birth of a baby, but there is no legal obligation to take the full 26 weeks off work if you not wish to. You have to inform your employer in writing of your intention to return to work. During leave you continue to accrue holidays, so many women add these on to the end of their maternity leave to extend it further.

This post was written by Morag P on behalf of Olive Loves Alfie. Morag is a mother and blogger offering top quality content to a range of websites and bloggers.

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