Pregnancy employment rights

If you're working and pregnant, empathetic colleagues will turn a blind eye to any compulsive baby name browsing - but pregnancy also brings with it statutory protection

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Chief among these protections are:

  • Maternity leave of up to 52 weeks. The minimum leave you can take is two weeks, or four if you work in a factory.
  • Maternity pay of at least the statutory amount (assuming you qualify) or enhanced pay if your employer provides it.
  • Time off for antenatal care, including time spent travelling to and from appointments. You may need to provide a note from your midwife or doctor to prove you have been at an antenatal appointment. (NB this right only extends to mothers-to-be, not their partners.)
  • Protection against health dangers in your workplace. Watch the video from Maternity Action: What are my health and safety rights at work during pregnancy?
  • Protection against unfair treatment or dismissal because of pregnancy or a pregnancy-related sickness; if you think this is happening to you, call the Working Families legal helpline on 0800 0130313. 
Watch the video: First steps to dealing with a pregnancy-related problem at work and Pursuing a grievance - next steps for dealing with an unfair boss.

Telling your employer you are pregnant

Obviously, the above rights can only kick in when you share the glad tidings that you're having a baby. But when's the right time to tell your employer?

In legal terms, you have to inform your employer by 15 weeks before the baby's due date. In practice, you'll almost certainly want to tell your boss before you're 25 weeks' pregnant.

Many women like to wait until they're past the 13-week stage. Remember that if you're worried about some aspect of your job being potentially dangerous to your pregnancy, you might want to tell your employer sooner rather than later. Heavy lifting, having to stand for long periods, and long working hours can all be risky to pregnancy.


When should you stop work if you're pregnant?

This is a big question for mothers-to-be. And the big answer is: it's an individual thing. Some women are absolutely fine working up to their due date and even, if the baby is 'late', beyond their due date; other women find the going is tough at 28 weeks and stop much sooner, taking annual leave to tide them over until their maternity leave kicks in.

There's no one-size-fits-all answer. Listening to your body is an important part of being pregnant; and every pregnancy is different. If your body's telling you it's all too much, and you need to stop, then listen. You can always talk to your boss about working from home, or coming in later, if that helps.

The earliest you can start your official maternity leave (unless the baby turns up very prematurely, in which case it starts the day he/she arrives) is 11 weeks before the beginning of the week when the baby is due. The latest you can start is the day on which your baby is actually born.

"I stopped work at 30 weeks - couldn't face the commute!" yellowflowers

"I worked till my due date for all of mine. I had really easy pregnancies and a desk job." babywrangler

"I had five months off in my last pregnancy, and have been on and off work since eight weeks (now 24) this time with hyperemesis. I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I am rubbish at being pregnant and can't do a lot about it. If you don't feel up to working then don't push yourself." Hevster

Of course if you're unsure about the nitty-gritty of your employment rights during pregnancy, millions of Mumsnetters are there on the Talk boards waiting to share their experiences and point you in the right direction for advice. 


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Last updated: about 2 years ago