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Maternity

Q

How much maternity leave will I get?

A

You are entitled to up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave, regardless of how long you have been working for your employer.   This is made up of 26 weeks’ Ordinary Maternity Leave and 26 weeks’ Additional Maternity Leave.   Your employer must assume that you are taking the full 52-week period of maternity leave, unless you give notice that you intend to return before the 52 weeks is up.  See below for more information on returning to work before the end of the 52-week period.  

For more information on your rights see nidirect(opens new window) and nibusinessinfo(opens new window)

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Q

When do I tell my employer when I want my maternity leave to start?

A

You can decide when you want your maternity leave to start, although it cannot start any earlier than the 11th week before your baby is due.  Once you have decided when you want your leave to start you must tell your employer (in writing, if they ask for it) no later than the 15th week before your baby is due.   You should tell your employer you are pregnant, when your baby is due and the date you want your leave to start.  You should also include your maternity certification (MATB1).  If you are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay then this notice will apply to that also.  Of course, you can tell your employer earlier than this date if you wish.   

You can change your mind and start your leave on a different date to that you have already notified your employer of, provided you give them at least 28 days notice of this.  The notice must be given either 28 days before the day you originally wanted your leave to start or 28 days before your new date – whichever is earlier.

For more information on your rights see nidirect(opens new window) and nibusinessinfo(opens new window)

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Q

If I agree with my employer the date when I’m coming back, can I change it?

A

If you want to return to work any earlier than the end of the 52 weeks’ maternity leave then you must give your employer 8 weeks’ notice of this.  Your employer can decide to accept less than 8 weeks’ notice, but if they insist, you must give the minimum 8 weeks’’ notice.  

For more information on your rights see nidirect(opens new window) and nibusinessinfo(opens new window)

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Q

Will I get paid when I’m on maternity leave?

A

Yes, as long as you meet certain conditions - you must have at least 26 weeks’ service with your employer by the 15th week before your baby is due and have average weekly earnings of at least £109 (for 2013-2014.  If you meet these conditions then you will be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) for a total of 39 weeks.  This is made up of:

6 weeks at 90% of your average weekly earnings (the higher rate)

33 weeks at the lower rate of SMP which is currently (2013-2014) £136.78 or 90% of your average weekly earnings if this is less than £136.78  

If you do not qualify for maternity pay then you may be entitled to maternity allowance which is paid by the Social Security Agency.  You can get more information on maternity allowance at nidirect(opens new window)

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Q

Am I allowed time off work for antenatal care like GP visits, hospital appointments and parent craft classes?

A

Yes, you are entitled to a reasonable amount of paid time off for antenatal care, regardless of how long you have been working for your employer.  The amount of time off is likely to depend on the type and time of the appointment and can include relaxation and parent craft classes where these are advised by a healthcare professional.   

Your employer cannot pressurise you to make your antenatal appointments for your day off, or, if you work part-time, during the time that you are not working.  However, your employer is entitled to expect you to attend work either before or after your appointment if that is possible and reasonable.  Your employer is entitled to ask you for proof (except for your first antenatal appointment) of an appointment e.g., appointment card, letter, etc.   

For more information on your rights see nidirect(opens new window) and nibusinessinfo(opens new window)  

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Q

What can I do if my employer refuses to let me have time off for antenatal appointments?

A

In the first instance you may wish to discuss the matter informally with your employer to outline what you believe to be your rights and explain that they can seek advice from the Labour Relations Agency on this matter.  If your employer still refuses or you do not wish to raise the matter informally then you should put your complaint (grievance) in writing to your employer.  Your employer should arrange a meeting with you to discuss your complaint in more detail and then give you their response and tell you that you have the right to appeal the decision.  

See Grievances and Advice on handling discipline and grievances at work for more information on how to raise a complaint with your employer

Where a problem or disagreement in the workplace is likely to lead to a tribunal claim the Labour Relations Agency will often be able to help employers and employees find a solution that is acceptable to both. This service is known as Pre-Claim Conciliation. It can save you the time, stress and expense normally associated with a tribunal claim.  You can find out more about Pre-Claim Conciliation at the following link or by contacting our Helpline service:

http://www.lra.org.uk/index/resolving-disputes/pre-claim_conciliation.htm

If, following this, your employer still refuses to let you have time off you can make a complaint to the Industrial Tribunal.  For more information on the role of the Industrial Tribunal and how to make a complaint please see their website, www.employmenttribunalsni.org (opens new window)

For more information on your rights see nidirect(opens new window) and nibusinessinfo(opens new window)  

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Q

I work in a supermarket stacking shelves.  Do my duties need to change to keep me and my baby safe?

A

Your employer has obligations to you under Health and Safety legislation which includes ensuring that the safety of you and your baby are not at risk because of your job.  In order to assess your safety your employer should carry out a risk assessment to identify any risks or hazards to you or your baby and take steps to ensure that your exposure to these risks is minimised.  This could include, for example, a change of hours or duties.  If you would like to know more about risk assessments please contact the Health and Safety Executive on 0800 0320 121 or visit their website http://www.hseni.gov.uk/index.htm. (opens new window)

For more information on your rights see nidirect(opens new window) and nibusinessinfo(opens new window)  

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Q

What happens if I am sick during my pregnancy?

A

If you are absent from work with a pregnancy -related illness during the fourth week before your baby is due then your maternity leave will automatically start on the day following your first day of absence.  However, If you are absent with an illness that is not pregnancy-related then you will be able to take sick leave until you start your maternity leave.  

For more information on your rights see nidirect(opens new window) and nibusinessinfo(opens new window)

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Q

What should I do if I feel that my employer is treating me differently now that they know I’m pregnant?

A

Your employer should not treat you any less favourably because of your pregnancy or because you have taken maternity leave.  Such treatment if related to pregnancy or maternity could amount to sex discrimination.  In the first instance you could raise the matter verbally with your employer to try and resolve the matter informally.  If you are unhappy with your employer’s response or you do not wish to raise the matter informally then you should put your complaint (grievance) in writing to your employer.  Your employer should arrange a meeting with you to discuss your complaint in more detail and then give you their response and tell you that you have the right to appeal the decision.  

Where a problem or disagreement in the workplace is likely to lead to a tribunal claim the Labour Relations Agency will often be able to help employers and employees find a solution that is acceptable to both. This service is known as Pre-Claim Conciliation. It can save you the time, stress and expense normally associated with a tribunal claim.  You can find out more about Pre-Claim Conciliation at the following link or by contacting our Helpline service:

http://www.lra.org.uk/index/resolving-disputes/pre-claim_conciliation.htm

If, following this, you still feel your employer is treating you less favourably you can make a complaint to the Industrial Tribunal.  For more information on the role of the Industrial Tribunal and how to make a complaint please see their website, www.employmenttribunalsni.org(opens new window) .  You may also wish to seek some advice from the Equality Commission on 028 9089 0890.   

For more information on your rights see nidirect (opens new window) and nibusinessinfo(opens new window).  

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Q

Will I still accrue holidays while I am on Maternity Leave?

A

Yes, all workers are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks annual leave per year and employees who are on maternity leave will continue to accrue this minimum holiday entitlement.   If your employer provides you with more than 5.6 weeks holiday per year then you may also accrue this during your maternity leave period.  You may wish to agree with your employer how you wish to use your holiday entitlement, e.g., before or after your maternity leave.

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Q

Is my employer allowed to contact me when I’m on maternity leave?

A

Yes.  New rules introduced in April 2007 permit an employer to make reasonable contact with an employee during their maternity leave.  The purpose of the contact is to keep the employee informed of any relevant developments, e.g. promotional opportunities, vacancies and to discuss issues such as the employee’s return to work, but not for work related enquires or to pressurise an employee into returning from maternity leave early.  It is a good idea for you and your employer to agree how and when contact will be made during your maternity leave before you go off on leave.  

You are also entitled, by agreement with your employer, to work up to 10 days during your maternity leave – these are known as keeping in touch days (KIT).   KIT days may be useful for you to get involved in any relevant training which occurs during your maternity leave or to attend any important meetings about developments in the company.  You do not have to work a KIT day if you do not wish to.  

For more information on your rights see nidirect(opens new window) and nibusinessinfo(opens new window)

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Q

When I come back to work, will I still have my own job?

A

If you return to work after your Ordinary Maternity Leave - the first 26 weeks - then you are entitled to return to your job, unless a redundancy situation has arisen.  If you return during or after Additional Maternity Leave - the second 26 week period - then you have the right to return to your job unless there was a redundancy situation or it was not reasonably practicable for your employer to give you your job back, e.g. there was a restructuring during your maternity leave.   Your employer should always consider whether there is any suitable alternative employment before contemplating redundancy.

For more information on your rights see nidirect(opens new window) and nibusinessinfo(opens new window)

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Q

Can I change my working hours when my Maternity Leave has finished?

A

Employees who have 26 weeks’ service with their employer and children under the age of 6 (or 18 if the child is disabled) or who care for certain adults have the right to make a request for flexible working.  This could include working part-time, working partly from home, or changing your starting or finishing times.  Your employer must consider your request seriously but does not have to agree to it if it is not feasible for them to do so.   Further information on this right can be found in nidirect (opens new window) and nibusinessinfo(opens new window).

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Q

Can I be made redundant when I am off on maternity leave?

A

An employee can be made redundant while they are off on maternity leave provided that there is a genuine redundancy and reason for selection is not related to their pregnancy.  

Special provisions apply if you are made redundant during the maternity leave period.  These entitle the employee to be offered suitable alternative employment where a suitable alternative vacancy exists with either the employer, the employer’s successor or an associated employer.  This offer must be made before the end of employment under the existing contract.

The offer of suitable alternative employment must meet the following criteria and start immediately on the ending of the previous contract:

  • The work to be done is of a kind which is both suitable in relation to the employee and appropriate for her to do in the circumstances, and
  • its provisions as to the capacity and place in which she is to be employed and as to the other terms and conditions of her employment, are not substantially less favourable to her than if she had continues to be employed under her previous contract.

If a suitable alternative vacancy exists and meets the above criteria a failure to offer the vacancy to the employee would be automatic unfair dismissal.  If a vacancy genuinely does not exist or the employee unreasonably refuses the offer dismissal may be fair and the employee could lose her right to a redundancy payment.

For more information on your rights see nidirect (opens new window) and nibusinessinfo(opens new window)

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