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What to do if you don't get your maternity rights

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

There are steps you can take if:

  • you have problems getting your maternity rights
  • you’re treated badly for asking for your maternity rights
  • you’re treated badly for any reason connected to your pregnancy or maternity

It’s important to start these steps as soon as you can. You only have 3 months minus one day from the date of your dispute if you need to take legal action.

You’ll need to follow a different process if:

Step 1: talk to your employer

Start by talking to your employer. You could go to the human resources (HR) department, if there is one.

Ask your employer to explain their decision, and show them any evidence you have of your situation, such as emails from your manager. Tell your employer your rights - you can check your rights when you’re pregnant at work or your rights on maternity leave if you need to know more.

Not all employers know your full maternity rights - explaining the law to them might change their mind. It can help to show them online information describing your rights.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice for more advice on negotiating with your employer.

Check if you’ve been discriminated against

If you think you’ve been treated badly because you’re pregnant or on maternity leave, it might be sex discrimination.

Speak to a trade union

If you’re in a trade union, it can help to talk to them first. Ask for their support before you approach your employer.

If you’re not in a union, find out if there’s one you can join. Some unions might not help with a problem from before you joined, but it’s worth checking. You might find details in your staff handbook or on noticeboards.

Step 2: write to your employer

If talking to your employer doesn’t solve the problem, write to them informally explaining your situation. You should mention:

  • what’s happened
  • how your employer can solve the problem
  • what maternity rights you have
  • if you think you’ve been discriminated against

Include copies of any evidence, such as emails or letters from your manager.

You can raise a grievance formally if your letter doesn’t get the response you’re hoping for. Your grievance letter should contain similar information to your first letter, but might be looked at by someone more senior.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help writing to your employer.

Step 3: contact the Labour Relations Agency

The Labour Relations Agency offers a free and confidential service called 'pre-claim conciliation'. This is a way to resolve disputes without the stress of going to a tribunal.

Your employer will also need to agree to conciliation, but if they refuse this could put you in a good light if you continue with your tribunal claim.

You can start conciliation by calling the Labour Relations Agency on 028 9032 1442.

Step 4: take your employer to an employment tribunal

Your final option is to take your employer to an employment tribunal. You’ll need to start your claim by 3 months minus one day from the date of the decision by your employer that you disagree with.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you’re thinking of making a tribunal claim, as it can be challenging.

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