A large portion of the population are working parents, carefully balancing work commitments with childcare responsibilities. A lot of the time this is a very delicate balance, but do you know that you have legal rights as a working parent?
Employment law provisions ensure that working parents have a variety of rights in the workplace. These can start from pregnancy onwards. We all hope that we have a supportive employer who recognises these rights – but this is not always the case and disputes can often arise.
“Each year, there are over 500,000 pregnant women in the workplace, many of whom go on to take a period of maternity leave before returning to work. One in every 20 of these women are made redundant during their pregnancy, maternity leave or on their return, equivalent to 6% of all pregnant women and new mothers at work.”
– Maternity Action report on ‘Unfair Redundancies during Pregnancy, Maternity Leave And Return To Work’
“An estimated 54,000 pregnant women and working mothers are made redundant or are pressured to leave their jobs each year.”
– The Fawcett Society’s ‘Sex Discrimination Law Review
In this article, we hope to summarise the various ‘family friendly’ or ‘working parent’ rights available to employees in the workplace. The rights of workers or self-employed people are different.
If you are pregnant, when you are comfortable you should tell your employer and be open and honest about any aspect of your role that is troubling for you or which you need support with. Your employer should carry out a risk assessment for you. Your employer may want to see your MATB1 form from your midwife.
Pregnant employees are entitled to time off to attend ante-natal appointments and their partners (the father or civil partner) are entitled to unpaid time off to attend two ante-natal appointments.
Pregnant employees can take maternity leave from the 15th week before the estimated date of childbirth. We recommend having a discussion with your employer about when you want to start your leave, when you intend to return, how your role will be covered and what work you should properties before your leave starts.
Employers should recognise that you may have periods of sickness absence during pregnancy and again an open and honest dialogue should be maintained during such period.
As long as you have given your employer notice, you are entitled to take maternity leave. This can start at any time from the 15th week before the estimated week of childbirth. You must take 2 weeks compulsory childbirth immediately following birth.
Maternity leave can last for up to 52 weeks, you should clarify your return to work date before your leave starts and if this is going to vary you should give your employer at least 8 weeks’ notice.
An employee who is adopting a child can take up to 52 weeks of adoption leave.
The father/civil partner is entitled to take paternity leave of 1 or 2 weeks in the 4 weeks following birth/placement of an adopted child
Employees who meet certain qualifying conditions regarding length of service and employment status are entitled to take Shared Parental Leave of up to 50 weeks – the mother must have relinquished her entitlement to maternity leave. Employees can take continuous shared parental leave (one period) that cannot be refused by the employer or discontinuous shared parental leave (multiple periods) which can be rejected on business grounds. If you are planning to take shared parental leave various notices must be given and we would highly recommend talking about your plans with your employer.
Subject to meeting qualifying conditions, there is a statutory payment for maternity leave, adoption leave, paternity leave and shared parental leave. Your contract of employment may provide for enhanced rates of pay.
You remain employed on the same terms and conditions of employment and to return to work on the same terms and conditions of employment, or terms not to your detriment.
You are entitled to not be discriminated against i.e. treated unfavourably because you are pregnant or on maternity leave.
You are entitled to not be subject to detrimental treatment for being pregnant, seeking to take, taking or having taken these forms of leave.
You are also entitled to not be dismissed because you are pregnant, seeking to take, taking or having taken these forms of leave.
During maternity or adoption leave you are entitled to make use of up to 10 Keeping in Touch days or 20 In Touch days for shared parental leave, to allow you to attend work as normal and be paid as normal for these days. The timing of these days is something you must agree with your employer, but there is no obligation on you to take these days.
If your employer commences a redundancy procedure impacting on your role during your period of leave, you are entitled to be told about this and to be consulted with about the procedure. If there is a suitable alternative role you are entitled to be placed in this role with priority over other employees affected by the redundancy procedure.
No they don’t, employees continue to have a number of rights on their return to the workplace – not least the right not to be treated detrimentally or dismissed because of the fact that they have taken this period of leave.
Further, if childcare is an issue, employees are entitled to make a flexible working request (provided no such request has been in the previous 6 months) i.e. to reduce their hours or rearrange their working pattern. There is a statutory procedure to follow for this.
A parent is entitled to take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid leave before their child’s 18th birthday (including adopted children) as parental leave.
All employees are entitled to take unpaid time off for dependants in an emergency situation.
If your employer has treated you unfairly, then a grievance is often the most practical way to try and resolve issues. We recommend you seek some advice from us and we can also help with preparing a grievance letter for you.
If you are unsure of your rights, please feel free to contact our expert employment specialists who will be happy to help and provide an initial consultation to you on your rights and circumstances.
You can contact us using the form below or by telephone on 0114 249 6666, email us at [email protected] or make use of our online employment clinic on Mondays or our free drop in service on Wednesdays.