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Additional maternity rights

Maternity suspension

Employers must take account of health and safety risks to new and expectant mothers when assessing risks in work activity. If the risk cannot be avoided, the employer must take steps to remove the risk or offer suitable alternative work (with no less favourable terms and conditions); if no suitable alternative work is available, the employer must suspend the expectant mother on full pay for as long as necessary to protect her health and safety or that of her baby.

What rights does an employee have while on maternity leave?

During the maternity leave, the employee is entitled to benefit from all her normal terms and conditions of employment, except for remuneration (monetary wages or salary). She can do up to 10 days' work during her maternity leave without losing any Statutory Maternity Pay, payment for these days should be agreed.

At the end of maternity leave, she has the right to return to her original job, if that is not possible then a similar job on the same terms and conditions should be given. If a redundancy situation arises, she must be offered a suitable alternative vacancy if one is available. If there is no suitable alternative work, she may be entitled to redundancy pay.

Breastfeeding on returning to work

At present there is no statutory right to time off for breastfeeding or expressing milk and there is no legislation requiring employers to provide specific facilities where employees can express milk. However, the Health and Safety Executive's advice is that employers are legally required to provide somewhere for pregnant and breastfeeding employees to rest and express milk toilets are not suitable for expressing milk. The employee should provide the employer with a written notification that they are breastfeeding; ideally this should be done before they return to work.

For further information visit the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.

Redundancies for pregnant employees or those on maternity leave

Myth: Pregnant women and women on maternity leave cannot be made redundant.
This is not true. In a genuine redundancy situation, and where there is no suitable alternative work available for those on maternity leave, then they can lawfully be made redundant, providing that pregnancy and maternity is not the reason for redundancy, the redundancy is genuine and you have followed the correct redundancy procedures and have considered any redeployment.

Checklist for a fair process

  • Is the redundancy genuine?
  • Have employers consulted with employees on maternity leave?
  • Has the right selection criteria been decided upon?
  • Are there any suitable alternative vacancies?
  • What does the law say?

What the law says

  • During the protected period (the beginning to the end of the maternity leave) unfavourable treatment of a women because she is pregnant or on maternity leave is unlawful.
  • A woman on maternity leave has the right to return to the same job before she left or if not possible at the end of the 52 weeks maternity leave than a suitable alternative must be found.
  • Selecting a woman for redundancy because of her pregnancy, maternity leave or a related reason is automatically unfair dismissal as well as being unlawful discrimination.
  • Failure to consult a woman on maternity leave about possible redundancy is likely to be unlawful discrimination.
  • A woman made redundant while on maternity leave must be offered any suitable alternative vacancy if there is one available she doesn't need to apply for it.

For further information please see the Acas booklet Managing redundancy for pregnant employees or those on maternity leave.

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