Advice for mums this Mother’s Day - Working rights for working mothers

Published: 22/03/2017

In this Mother’s Day edition of Everyday Legal, our lawyers offer some advice to mums who choose to go back to work after having little ones. Balancing family and work life is a choice many new mamas make. However, it can be difficult to navigate the rules to understand what your working rights are. Can you have time off if your child is poorly? What about flexible working hours? Maternity leave? We break down the basics…

Congrats, you’re pregnant!

You are obligated to tell your employer that you are pregnant by the fifteenth week before your baby is due – the ‘notification week’. This can be worked out by going to the Sunday before your due date and counting back another 15 weeks.

However, most employers would prefer you notify them as soon as you feel comfortable to do so. As such, you can more easily organise time off to attend medical appointment and so forth.

What you should tell your employer:

• When you intend to go on maternity leave

• That you want to receive statutory maternity pay, if applicable

• The date you plan to start your maternity leave. The earliest your maternity leave can start is 11 weeks before your baby is due. You can change this later on, but you should give your employer 28 days’ notice

What your employer must do:

• Write to you within 28 days to confirm the date your maternity leave starts and when you'll be expected to return to work

• Carry out a workplace risk assessment to ensure your working conditions don’t put you or the baby at risk. If risks are found, your employer must take steps to remedy them. If the risk cannot be avoided, you should be offered suitable alternative work at the same pay rate. If that isn’t possible, you should be suspended on full pay

• Allow you the time needed to attend antenatal appointments, including time to travel to your clinic or GP without losing pay. Your employer may ask to see a MATB1 certificate signed by your |GP, midwife or health visitor

• Treat your fairly, regardless of how long you’ve been working for them or how many hours you work. The law protects your rights during pregnancy and you should not be unfairly treated or discriminated against. Speak to your HR department or union representative if you have concerns. It is against the law for your employer to dismiss you or select you for redundancy for any reason connected with pregnancy, childbirth or maternity leave

Maternity leave – Statutory Maternity Pay

To receive SMP, you must:

• Earn on average at least £112 a week

• Give correct notice

• Give proof you’re pregnant

• Have worked with the employer continuously for at least 26 weeks up to the ‘qualifying week’ (the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth)

• Not go into police custody during your maternity pay period. It will not restart when you’re discharged

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid for up to 39 weeks. You get:

• 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks

• £139.58 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks

SMP is paid in the same way as your wages (eg monthly or weekly). Tax and National Insurance will be deducted.

SMP usually starts when you take your maternity leave.

It starts automatically if you’re off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks before the week (Sunday to Saturday) that your baby is due.

If you and your employer disagree about the amount or if they say they can’t pay (e.g. due to being insolvent), call HM Revenue and Customs on 0300 200 3500.

If your baby is born early; is stillborn after the start of your 24th week of pregnancy; or dies after being born you can still get SMP.

What if I don’t quality for Statutory Maternity Pay?

You may be eligible for Maternity Allowance for 29 weeks if:

• You’re employed, but can’t get SMP (e.g. if you haven’t worked with your employer for long enough)

• You’re self-employed and pay Class 2 National Insurance

• You’ve recently stopped working

• You’ve been employed or self-employed in the 66 weeks before your baby’s due

You may get Maternity Allowance for 14 weeks if:

• You’re not employed

• You’re married or in a civil partnership

• Other factors

For more information on your specific circumstances, use the Government's maternity leave calculator.

Returning to work

If you decide to take the full 52 weeks off work, you don’t have to give notice to your employer that you’re coming back, although it’s recommended you do just to remind them.

You can decide to return to work after the first 26 weeks of having the child if you like, and you’ll have the right to return to exactly the same job with the same terms and conditions, as if you’d never been away.

After 52 weeks, your employer can argue your old job no longer exists, although if they do they must offer you an alternative job with the same terms.

If your employer prevents you from returning to work with no valid reason or makes you redundant solely on the basis that you’ve taken maternity leave, you can make a complaint of unfair dismissal and take it to an unemployment tribunal.

Flexible working conditions

Once back at work, you can negotiate more flexible working conditions with your employer which they must consider seriously, such as:

• Flexitime

• Part-time work

• Working from home

• Job-share, where appropriate

All these options come with statutory protection of your existing terms and conditions.

Taking time off work

As long as your time off is for legitimate emergencies, there isn’t a limit on the amount of times you can have time off to deal with it, although it’s always best to talk to your boss if you think it’s going to be ongoing situation.

There may also be an option to take unpaid parental leave.

Best to discuss any concerns with your boss or HR department.

Connecting with other working mums

There are lots of great online resources for working mums looking to connect with other like-minded women. Net Mums online is a great one.

Content correct at time of publication
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