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Pregnancy protection in the workplace

Your basic rights under Health & Safety and Sex Discrimination laws

Posted: 29 July 2010
by ThinkBaby

Protecting yourself and your baby in the workplace

When you become pregnant as an employee you have some rights relating to your employment regardless of how long you've worked for your employer or how many hours a week you work for them. Here's a brief overview of what these are.

Health protection

As a pregnant woman, new mother or breastfeeding mum you're entitled to protection from risks in your work environment by health and safety laws. Risks could include the obvious: lifting heavy weights, working with potentially dangerous chemicals, excessive noise hazards, extremes of temperatures, excessively stressful conditions etc. If you face some kind of risk at work then your employer has to either modify your working conditions or find you more suitable comparable work. If this isn't possible then you should be suspended on full pay.

If you think your working conditions present a health risk to your pregnancy then take a look at the Health and Safety Executive page for new and expectant mums and raise the issue with your employer as soon as possible.

Useful contacts

The Maternity Alliance
Contact tel: 020 7490 7638

The Advisory Conciliation & Arbitration Service
Tel: 08457 47 47 47

Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB)

Health & Safety Executive

Employment and dismissal

By law it is considered sex discrimination for a company to treat you unfairly because of your pregnancy. This includes not only any attempt by your company to dismiss you because of your pregnancy, but also any attempt to give you less good working conditions than those of your colleagues.

If you think that you're being treated unfairly at work because of your pregnancy then make notes of incidents and contact your union rep, the Citizen's Advice Bureau, the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration service and/or your own HR department if suitable. It may help your cause and smooth the process if you raise the issue internally before getting outside involvement.

The discrimination laws also cover women applying for jobs. It is against the law for a company to refuse you employment on the grounds of your pregnancy and not only do you not have to tell a prospective employer that you are pregnant, but they should not ask you whether you are, or intend to become, pregnant.

Time off

You are entitled to time off for antenatal appointments and time to attend antental classes, though some employers will ask for proof of pregnancy (ask your doctor or midwife for this) before they give you permission to take the time off. Your employer should record any pregnancy-related sick leave separately from other sick leave and it should not count towards your total sickness absence for disciplinary or redundancy purposes.

You should also face no discrimination for any time off you need for maternity-related illnesses as long as you follow correct procedures in providing a sicknote from your doctor.

Resting when necessary

Your employers should do all they can to ensure that there is a suitable place for you to rest when you're pregnant or breastfeeding, preferably somewhere that you can lie down and somewhere that offers a hygenic and private place for expressing breast milk.

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