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Agency workers and pregnancy

This advice applies to England

Your basic rights

Like all workers, you should not face discrimination because you're pregnant. For example, an agency can't:

  • end your job or not offer you work
  • treat you worse than other workers
  • refuse you  work.

Also an agency can't discriminate against you indirectly because you're pregnant.  Indirect discrimination could be where an agency refuses to accept you onto its books because you only want to take part-time work because you're pregnant.

Or if it only offers short-term jobs to you while offering longer term jobs to agency workers who aren't pregnant. If the agency does this it would have to justify why they're doing it.

When you've worked in the same job for the same employer for 12 weeks starting from 1 October 2011 or 5 December 2011 in Northern Ireland, you will have additional rights as a pregnant agency worker.

Are you entitled to Statutory maternity pay (SMP)

You can get SMP as long as you meet the qualifying conditions.

Are you entitled to maternity leave?

You won't be entitled to maternity leave unless you are an employee of the agency. This is only likely if you're on a pay between assignments contract.

If you're not entitled to maternity leave, you can try to agree some time off with your agency or the employer.

Are you entitled to contractual maternity pay?

You're not entitled to contractual maternity pay, even if you have worked for an employer for  more than 12 weeks.

Do you have to tell the agency or employer that you are pregnant?

You don't have to tell your agency or employer. However, you don't have the right to time off until you have told the agency you are pregnant, and you have no right to pay for ante-natal appointments or to pay if you are suspended from your job on health and safety grounds until you have told your employer in writing that you're pregnant.

Do you have a right to paid time off to attend ante-natal classes and appointments?

When you have worked for 12 weeks with the same employer, you're entitled to paid time off for antenatal classes and appointments. You must be paid at your current hourly rate for each hour of work you miss. The agency can ask you to provide proof of your appointments and ask you how long you will need to take off to attend them.

You should avoid taking time off work where you could reasonably arrange classes or appointments outside working hours.

Can you accompany a pregnant woman to an ante-natal appointment?

You can take unpaid leave of up to 6 hours and 30 minutes to accompany a pregnant woman to two ante-natal appointments. To be eligible to do so, you must be:

  • the baby's father
  • the woman's spouse, civil partner or partner (including same-sex partner) in an enduring relationship, or
  • the intended parents in a surrogacy situation who are entitled to and intend to apply for a parental order for that child.

Can an employer refuse to let you return to the job you were doing before you had your baby

It may be discrimination if your employer refuses to take you back into the job you were doing before. This will depend on your circumstances. For example  there may be a case for discrimination where although you're an agency worker, you have worked for the same employer for a number of years and your employer could easily have allowed you back to work after your maternity leave.

Next steps

If you think that you may have been discriminated against because you are pregnant, you could try to resolve the matter informally by writing to the agency, the employer or both depending on who has allegedly discriminated against you.

You should do this in writing so that you have a record of it. If this does not work, or you want to make a more formal complaint, you could write a letter of grievance. In both cases, you should set out why you think you may have been discriminated against and what you would like to be done about it.

If this doesn't work, you could make a claim to an employment tribunal. You must make a claim within three months less one day of the date of the act of discrimination you are complaining about. You should contact an employment specialist at your nearest CAB

More information

Agency workers and health and safety risk assessments when you're pregnant

For other basic employment rights, see Agency workers - what you need to know.

For new employment rights, see Additional rights for agency workers.

Other useful information

There is useful guidance on the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills website at www.bis.gov.uk and on the TUC website at www.tuc.org.uk.

Maternity Action at: www.maternityaction.org.uk.

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