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Rights while you're pregnant at work

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

You have legal rights while you’re pregnant at work. These rights can protect you from unfair treatment, make sure your work is safe and give you time off for antenatal appointments.

You’ll get different rights while you’re away from work on maternity leave.

Maternity pay and maternity leave

If you’re an employee you can take maternity leave, which gives you up to a year off work when you’re having a baby - check if you can get maternity leave.

Not everyone who gets maternity leave also gets maternity pay, so you should also check what maternity pay you’re entitled to.

Your partner might also have rights to pay and time off.

Paid time off for antenatal appointments

While you’re pregnant you can take paid time off work for antenatal appointments your doctor, nurse or midwife recommends. This might include parenting or relaxation classes as well as medical appointments.

You have a right to this time off if you’re entitled to maternity leave. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been working for your employer or what hours you work.

You can also take this time off if you’re an agency worker and you’ve been working for the same hirer for at least 12 weeks in a row.  

You should get your usual pay on a day when you go to an appointment. Your employer can’t make you work extra hours to make up for the time you’re away.

Your partner might also be able to take time off for 1 or 2 of your appointments.

Get your employer’s permission

Ask your employer if you can go to each of your appointments - you might need to show them your appointment card.

In rare cases your employer can refuse to let you go to an appointment, but they have to be reasonable. It won’t usually be reasonable for them to question medical advice you’ve had from a doctor, nurse or midwife.

It can be reasonable to ask you to book some appointments outside working hours if you can. But they should accept that you might not have much choice over when your appointments are.

If your employer won’t give you paid time off

There are steps you can take if your employer won’t give you paid time off for antenatal appointments. You’re likely to have experienced maternity discrimination if your employer is being unreasonable.

It’s best to start by talking to your employer and trying to reach an agreement. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help.

If you work at night

Tell your doctor your working hours when you’re arranging antenatal appointments. They might be able to fit your appointments around your sleeping pattern.

If your appointments are outside your normal working hours your employer doesn’t have to give you other paid time off to make up for this.

There are special rules on working at night even when you’re not pregnant.

If you work for an agency

You have a right to paid time off for antenatal appointments if you’ve been working for the same hirer for at least 12 weeks in a row.

You can take paid time off for appointments in your normal working hours. These hours are set by your hirer, not your agency. You can go to an appointment at any time when you would have been at work if you hadn’t had the appointment.

Your employer isn’t allowed to:

  • rearrange your schedule so your appointment is no longer in your working hours
  • make you work extra hours to make up for time spent at an appointment

Sick pay while you’re pregnant

You’re entitled to sick pay if you get sick when you’re pregnant. Getting sick pay could affect your maternity pay - find out more about getting sick pay when you’re pregnant.

Health and safety

Once you’ve told your employer in writing that you’re pregnant, they have to check your job for any health and safety risks to you or your baby. This is called a ‘risk assessment’. They need to tell you about anything they find, such as:

  • long working hours
  • standing or sitting for a long time without a break
  • heavy lifting or carrying
  • exposure to toxic substances

When checking for risks your employer should talk to you about your pregnancy and what you need. Tell them any advice you’ve had from your doctor or midwife, and let them know if anything worries you.

If your work isn’t safe

There are 3 steps your employer should take to remove any risks.

If you’re an employee or an agency worker all of these steps apply. You’re probably an employee if you do regular work with fixed hours set by your employer.

If you aren’t an employee or an agency worker (for example if you’re a casual worker or on a zero-hours contract), you only have a right to the first step.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you're not sure what rights you're entitled to.

1. Change your conditions

Your employer should change your working conditions to remove any risks. For example, they could get you a more comfortable chair, change your hours to avoid rush hour, or let you work from home at times. They can’t make any changes you don’t agree to.  

2. Give you different work

If your employer can’t change your conditions, they should offer you different work to do while you’re pregnant. For example, you could do an office job rather than one involving heavy lifting.

The new job can’t pay less than your usual job, or have worse benefits.

The work has to be something you can do, so tell your employer if it isn’t right for you.

If you’re an agency worker the people you’re working for might not be able to give you different work. Tell your agency if this happens. Your agency then has to either:

  • find you different work
  • pay you for the rest of the work you would have been doing if you hadn’t been pregnant - this will usually be for the rest of your assignment

3. Let you stay at home

If your employer can’t give you different work, you have a right to stay at home until they’ve removed the risk. They have to keep paying you in full.

Your employer can’t change other details of your job while you’re at home because of a risk at work. For example, they can’t cut your pay or not tell you about a chance to apply for a promotion.

If your employer doesn’t make sure you’re safe

There are actions you can take if your employer doesn’t give you a risk assessment or follow the steps to remove any risks. Start by talking to your employer - show them any documents from your doctor or midwife saying what conditions would be safe for you.

You could have experienced sex discrimination if your employer doesn’t carry out a risk assessment for you. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you think your employer has discriminated against you.

Check your contract for extra maternity rights

Check your contract or employee handbook to see if you have any extra rights beyond the legal minimum. For example, some employers give you extra healthcare while you’re pregnant.

Your employer can’t take away any of your maternity rights - no matter what your contract says. If your contract tries to take away any of the maternity rights on this page, check what steps you can take or contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help.

If you’re treated badly because you're pregnant

There are steps you can take if:

  • you don’t get all your maternity rights
  • you’re treated badly because you asked for any of your maternity rights
  • you’re treated badly for any reason connected to your maternity leave

You could also have experienced sex discrimination if you’ve been treated badly at least partly because you’re pregnant or on maternity leave. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you think your employer has discriminated against you.

If you’re made redundant while you're pregnant

Your employer has to decide who to make redundant as if you weren’t pregnant. It’s unfair dismissal and sex discrimination if your pregnancy affects their decision.

It’s worth checking whether your redundancy is fair.

If you’re sacked while you're pregnant

It’s unfair dismissal and sex discrimination if the reasons for sacking you are connected to your pregnancy.

You should check whether you’ve been unfairly dismissed.

If you're applying for a job while you're pregnant

You don't have to tell anyone that you're pregnant when you're applying for a job. 

If you're offered a job and your employer changes their mind when they find out you're pregnant, this is sex discrimination.

Check what maternity pay you can get if you start a new job while you're pregnant. It's likely that you won't be entitled to statutory maternity pay.

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