Questions about pregnancy and becoming a parent

Q: I told my employer that I was pregnant. Next thing they tell me I’m not doing a good enough job and sack me. They never said there was anything wrong before. What can I do?

A: It is unlawful for your employer to dismiss you because you are pregnant or for reasons connected with your pregnancy or maternity leave. It is also unlawful for your employer to deny you access to holiday pay, sickness pay, training or any other contractual benefit that all employees are entitled to.

If there have been no issues with regard to your performance and the decision to dismiss is made immediately after you have explained that you are pregnant, this is likely to be unlawful.

You should approach your employer and explain that you have rights not to be dismissed because you are pregnant.

See also questions about pay and employment.

Q: What are my pregnancy and maternity rights?

A: You are protected from unfair treatment because you are pregnant  by the Sex Discrimination Act and the Employment Rights Act.

Under the Employment Rights Act, during pregnancy you are entitled to take paid time off to attend ante-natal care appointments recommended by your doctor or midwife.

You have the right to 26 weeks of 'Ordinary Maternity Leave' and 26 weeks 'Additional Maternity Leave' - making one year in total. Provided you meet certain notification requirements, you can take this no matter how long you've been with your employer, how many hours you work or how much you're paid.

Health and Safety legislation means that you are also entitled to a risk assessment  to ensure that your job is not putting your health or the health of your baby at risk.

Read more information about your pregnancy and maternity rights.

Q: I'm 14 and pregnant; my school have told my parents I can no longer attend. Are they allowed to do this?

A: If a pupil cannot attend school because of pregnancy, their local authority (or education authority in Scotland) still has a duty to provide suitable alternative education.

A pupil who becomes pregnant is entitled to 18 calendar weeks’ authorised absence to cover the time immediately before and after the birth of the child.

The school should try to keep in learning pupils who are pregnant or have children. This means keeping a pupil on the school roll, even if she may not be able to attend for a period of time, keeping up to date with her progress and finding a suitable time to re-integrate her into the school.

  • Pregnancy cannot be used as a reason for exclusion.
  • Health and safety should not be used as a reason to prevent a pregnant pupil attending school.
    If you are pregnant, you should tell your school so that they can make arrangements to support you.

Q: I’m 17 and about to become a father. Am I entitled to paternity leave?

A: If you are in education then your school or college should support you to help you continue your education.

If you are in work, you may be entitled to a short period (1-2 weeks) of paid or unpaid paternity leave but you must meet certain conditions. You can find out more about this on

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Last Updated: 20 Jul 2009