Firstly, a woman cannot be dismissed for being pregnant or having children. If an employer terminates your employment contract in these circumstances, then you have the right to take your employer to a tribunal for an unfair dismissal hearing.
Secondly, all employees, regardless of their current tenure at a job, have the right to take maternity leave. This period is stated to be a maximum of 26 weeks of paid leave, where the employment contract continues through. Maternity leave cannot begin until at least 11 weeks into a pregnancy. In most circumstances, each individual employer will decide when the period begins. Pregnant women must give one months’ notice of their leave before the period is set to begin.
You must tell your employer that you are pregnant at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week when your baby is due. If this isn’t possible, for example because you didn’t realise you were pregnant, you must tell your employer as soon as possible. You should also tell them when you want to start your Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay.
Each female is entitled to be paid during her maternity leave. She will receive 9/10ths of her annual salary for the first six weeks of her leave, and then less for the remainder of the maternity period, up to a maximum of 26 weeks.
Every woman has the right to return to work after their maternity leave is finished. An employer cannot decide to simply not give the job back to a female employee because she has been on maternity leave. However, a returning employee must give 3 weeks’ notice of impending return and await a response on when the employer wishes her to come back.
If the type of employment is not one which can be performed safely while pregnant, an employer must offer an alternative job, if one is available. In many circumstances, an employer will simply suspend the pregnant woman from working until she has given birth. If there is such a job and it is not offered, and the employee is suspended, then she has the right to take the matter to tribunal.
All pregnant employees, regardless of tenure, are entitled to reasonable time off work for antenatal care. Any time off must be paid at your normal rate of pay. An employer cannot refuse to give you reasonable time off for antenatal care or to pay you at your normal rate of pay. You cannot take paid time off for antenatal appointments until you have told your employer you are pregnant.
Fathers do not have a legal right to time off to accompany their partners to antenatal appointments as the right to paid time off only applies to pregnant employees. However, many companies recognize how important a time this is and let their employees either take paid time off or make up the time later.
It is unlawful sex discrimination for employers to treat women less favorably because of their pregnancy or because they take maternity leave. For example, this includes:
trying to cut your hours without your permission
suddenly giving you poor staff reports
giving you unsuitable work
making you redundant because of your pregnancy (you might still be made redundant for other reasons)
treating days off sick due to pregnancy as a disciplinary issue
Your employer can’t change your employment terms and conditions while you are pregnant without your agreement. If they do, they will be in breach of contract.