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Check your parental rights as an agency worker

This advice applies to England

As an agency worker, you should have the right: 

  • to get statutory maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental pay if you qualify

  • to work in a safe environment when you’re pregnant

  • not to be discriminated against because you’re pregnant

If you’ve worked in the same job in the same organisation for 12 weeks or more, you’ll also have the right to:

  • paid time off for antenatal appointments

  • an individual pregnancy health and safety assessment

  • alternative work or pay if you can’t continue the job you’re in because of your pregnancy

  • accompany a pregnant woman to an antenatal appointment - for example if you’re the baby’s father or the woman’s partner

You must have told your agency or the organisation you work in that you’re pregnant to get the rights of a pregnant worker. 

If you’re an employee of the agency, from the start of your job you’ll also have the right to:

  • statutory maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave

  • ask for flexible working after you’ve taken parental leave

Check if you can get time off for having or adopting a child

If you give birth, you must take at least 2 weeks off work after having your baby - or 4 weeks if you work in a factory. You won’t be paid during this time but you could get SMP or Maternity Allowance if you qualify. You don’t have any automatic right to time off if you adopt a child.

You won't get statutory maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave unless you're an employee of the agency. If you’re an employee, you can find out more about statutory leave.

If your partner is an employee, they could take shared parental leave and share that with you. You both need to meet certain conditions. This is a very complex area, so talk to an adviser to check if you can get shared parental leave.

If you don’t get statutory maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave, you can try to agree some time off with your agency or the organisation where you do your work. You might be able to argue that refusing to allow you any time off for your maternity is discrimination - check if you’ve been discriminated against

Check what money you can get if you have or adopt a child

Even if you don’t qualify for statutory leave, you might be entitled to statutory maternity pay (SMP), statutory paternity pay (SPP) or statutory adoption pay (SAP) if you meet the qualifying conditions. If you don't qualify for SMP, you might be able to get maternity allowance.

If you qualify for SMP, your agency should pay it to you even if you're no longer registered with them. 

You can find out more about SMP and maternity allowance. You can find out more about SPP or SAP.

If you qualify for SMP,  SSP or SAP you should also qualify for shared parental pay.  You and your partner will have to meet certain conditions, so talk to an adviser to check if you can get shared parental pay. 

Asking to change your working pattern 

You might want to change your working pattern when you go back to work. If you’re an employee who’s taken parental leave, you could ask for flexible working

If you’re not an employee, you can try to persuade your agency to let you work flexibly by arguing that it’s sex discrimination if they don’t. 

Check your workplace is safe for you if you’re pregnant

The organisation where you do your work has to make sure its workplace is safe. It does this by carrying out a general risk assessment. That includes checking any risks to pregnant workers. If there are risks, the organisation should take reasonable steps to prevent harm to you or your unborn baby. 

When you know you’re pregnant you should write to your agency and the organisation where you’re working. Tell them you’re pregnant and ready and willing to work.You can ask for changes to be made because of your pregnancy. For example, you could ask for a chair if you have to stand for a long time.

Whether the organisation has to make these changes will depend on:

  • how reasonable the changes are

  • how easy it would be for the organisation to make them

  • how long you’re expected to work on that job

If the organisation refuses to make changes and you think they’re being unreasonable, you should raise this with your agency. You or your agency should ask to see the organisation’s risk assessment. If the assessment shows the job is clearly unsuitable, you would lose your job and the organisation can ask for another worker.

The agency doesn’t have to find your alternative work or pay you for the rest of the job - unless you’re an employee of the agency or you’ve been in the same job for 12 weeks or more. 

Check if you’ve been discriminated against because you’re pregnant

You shouldn’t face discrimination because you're pregnant. For example, an agency might be discriminating if they:

  • end your job or don’t offer you work - unless it's for a genuine health and safety reason

  • treat you worse than other workers

  • refuse you work

  • offer only very short-term placements to pregnant women while offering longer placements to other agency workers

Depending on the circumstances, it might also be discrimination if the organisation where the agency wants to place you with refuses to:

  • take you on because you are pregnant

  • take you back into the job you were doing before 

For example, there might be discrimination if you’ve worked in the same organisation for many years and it could easily have taken you back after your maternity leave.

If the agency uses health and safety risks as an excuse to end your job

This isn't discrimination if there's a genuine reason why you can't do your job. It is discrimination if the organisation:

  • moves you to another job without a good health and safety reason

  • uses minor risks as an excuse because they don’t want you to work for them

  • refuses to make reasonable adjustments to your job to make it safe for you

If you think you’ve been discriminated against because you’re pregnant

You could try to resolve the matter informally by writing to the agency, the organisation you're working for or both depending on who’s discriminated against you.

You should do this in writing so you have a record of it. You should set out why you think you might 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 start the claim within 3 months minus 1 day of the date of the act of discrimination you're complaining about. You can find out more about taking action about discrimination at work. You should talk to an adviser if you need help with this.

If you’ve been in the same job in the same organisation for 12 weeks or more

If you’ve told the organisation or your agency that you’re pregnant, you’ll also have the right to:

  • paid time off for antenatal appointments

  • a specific pregnancy health and safety assessment

  • alternative work or pay if you can’t continue the job you’re in because of your pregnancy

If your partner is pregnant, you might also be able to accompany them to an antenatal appointment. 

If you want to take time off for antenatal appointments

You can take paid time off for antenatal classes and appointments. You must be paid 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.

Getting a specific health and safety assessment

The organisation where you’re working will need to do an individual pregnancy risk assessment to identify if you need any changes to your working conditions. 

If there’s an immediate risk to your health and safety, it might be reasonable for them to suspend you so they can:

  • do an individual risk assessment 

  • make any adjustments so that it’s safe for you to work

They should discuss the findings of the risk assessment with you and not make any adjustments unless you agree.

If the organisation where you're working says you need to stop working for health and safety reasons, you should ask them for a copy of the risk assessments. Check if there’s a good reason to stop you working - if there isn’t, they could be discriminating against you.

If you can’t finish your job because of health and safety risks

Your agency has a duty to find you alternative work. If you can't reasonably avoid the risks, the organisation where you're working should tell the agency. The agency should then find you alternative work. You must be paid the same amount for the new job as you were earning in the job you had to leave.

If the agency can't find suitable alternative work for you, they must pay you for the rest of the time you were due to work.

Example

Dejanka is an agency worker. She’s worked at a care home for the elderly in the same job for the last 16 weeks. The job should have lasted another 20 weeks. She’s recently told her agency and the care home she’s pregnant.

The care home has carried out a risk assessment. It decided that as Dejanka’s job involves occasional heavy lifting, continuing to work would be a risk to her health and safety. It suspends her on maternity-related health and safety grounds.

Dejanka agrees with this assessment and returns to the agency.

The agency is unable to find another job for Dejanka. It must pay her at the same rate as the care home for the remaining 20 weeks of her job. 

You won't be paid if you refuse an offer of suitable alternative work and have no good reason for doing so.

If you want to accompany a pregnant woman to an antenatal appointment

You can accompany them to 2 antenatal appointments if you’re one of the following:

  • the baby's father

  • the woman's spouse, civil partner or partner

  • the intended parents in a surrogacy situation who are entitled to and intend to apply for a parental order for that child

You won’t be paid for this time off. You can’t take more than 6 hours and 30 minutes unless the agency or the organisation where you work allows you to take longer.

You can find out more about this right on GOV.UK.

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