It is a good idea to tell your employer that you are pregnant as early as possible. This is because:
- you may need to take time off for antenatal care,
- you may need protection from health and safety risks, and
- you are only protected from unfavourable treatment because of your pregnancy once your employer knows or suspects you are pregnant.
Our research found that the majority of employers felt that supporting pregnant employees was in the interests of their organisation.
After you have worked for 12 weeks in the same job, you can take reasonable paid time off for antenatal care. This includes not only medical examinations but also, for example, antenatal classes, relaxation or parenting classes, as recommended by a registered doctor, midwife or health visitor. Your employer can only refuse a request for time off if it is reasonable for them to refuse.
After the first antenatal appointment, you have to provide proof of your appointments, if your employer asks you to do so.
Our research found that 15% of mothers under 25 felt they were discouraged from attending their antenatal appointments by their employer.
You must tell your employer when you want to start your maternity leave by the 15th week before the baby is due (that is when you are about six months pregnant).
It is a good idea to put it in writing so there is a record of having given the right information at the right time.
You can change the start date of your maternity leave but you must tell your employer 28 days before you want your maternity leave to start. Your employer should then tell you when your maternity leave will end.
You do not need to say how long you will be off on maternity leave but it will help your employer if you do. If you say nothing, it will be assumed that you will take a full year (52 weeks). If you want to return earlier than one year you must tell your employer eight weeks before you want to return.
Our research found that 20% of mothers under 25 reported being encouraged by their employer to take time off or get signed off to start their maternity leave early.
If you have any concerns about your health and safety, you should take to your line manager. You can ask to see a copy of the health and safety assessment that has been carried out previously to see if there are any risks that have been identified for pregnant women in your job.
All employers who have workers of child-bearing age must conduct a health and safety assessment which assesses risks for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Examples provided by the Health and Safety Executive of common risks include:
- lifting/carrying heavy loads
- standing or sitting still for long lengths of time
- exposure to infectious diseases
- exposure to lead
- exposure to toxic chemicals
- work-related stress
- workstations and posture
- exposure to radioactive material
- threat of violence in the workplace
- long working hours
- excessively noisy workplaces
Our research found that 10% of mothers under 25 reported leaving their work due to health and safety risks not being tackled.
You shouldn’t experience a negative impact on your health and stress levels, be given an unsuitable workload or be treated unfavourably or feel less valued.
Our research found that a quarter of mothers under 25 reported experiencing a negative impact on their health or stress levels.
Read our tips for reducing stress from young mum of two and Young Women’s Trust advisory panel member, Sophie Kathir.
If you are experiencing any negative impact, you should try and have an informal discussion. If this does not resolve the issues, you could:
- ask your union representative to raise your concerns with your employer
- raise your concerns informally with human resources
- write or email your manager or human resources explaining your concerns and setting out what you would like to happen
- refer your employer to the Equality and Human Rights Commission or Maternity Action website so they can check out their obligations to you
- speak to the Health and Safety Executive if you are concerned about your employer’s failure to comply with their health and safety obligations
- raise a formal grievance in writing
- seek advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau
- seek free advice from Maternity Action or Working Families
- ask a lawyer to write to your employer. This should be a last resort
- apply to ACAS for early conciliation
Last updated: 19 Mar 2018