We’ve teamed up with Eastbourne CAB to help raise awareness of women’s workplace rights when pregnant. Here’s some insights from Karen Costello-McFeat, who was heavily involved in researching the issue.
Amid all the preparations and excitement of an anticipated birth, it is easy to forget to take a little time out to ensure that all is in order for your maternity leave and subsequent return to work.
At Citizens Advice, we see the consequences of this omission. We have had cases where clients have been treated prejudicially, lost hours of work and even been dismissed or asked to resign.
Due to the frequency of these cases, we decided to create a survey to get a better sense of what is happening in the workplace. The results were disappointing. Almost half felt that they had been treated unfairly or faced discrimination; an equal number felt that their employers didn’t follow guidelines on health or offer suitable work alternatives and a staggering number had not been given adequate information about their maternity rights.
Those fortunate enough to work in larger organisations or those with good HR teams were generally fine; however, those working for small businesses, on temporary or zero-hour contracts were the most vulnerable.
But it should not matter who you work for to ensure that you receive the help you need. Here, knowledge is going to be the best way to protect your rights. And the good news is that it is readily and freely available to everyone.
The best place to start is the GOV.UK site (put maternity in the search box). Here you will find everything you could possibly want to know about your rights and responsibilities. You can guide your employer to the site also if he/she seems a little bewildered by all the legislation.
They will no doubt be delighted to hear that they can reclaim 92% of your Statutory Maternity Pay and up to 103% if they qualify as a small business. (Search: Statutory Maternity Pay and the Small Employers’ Relief Fund.) If you are self-employed or do not qualify for SMP, you may be entitled to Maternity Allowance instead.
We would also recommend that you get your employer’s name and a written contract or statement of terms and particulars before you go on maternity leave. (It’s best to put any requests for these in writing, ideally via email). This way, should you feel that legal action is required at a later date, you will have all the information you need.
Whatever happens, you need not feel alone. There is excellent advice available at www.maternityaction.org.uk and of course, from your local Citizens Advice.
Hopefully, you won’t need us, and can instead focus on keeping well at work and looking forward to and enjoying the new arrival. All the best!