Editor's message: For an employment right that is so frequently invoked, the rules relating to pregnancy and maternity can be complex and misunderstood. It is therefore crucial that employers understand the respective rights and obligations that apply, so that pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace are fully supported.
In principle, the position is straightforward. Regardless of her length of service, every pregnant employee has the right to take 26 weeks' ordinary maternity leave, followed immediately by 26 weeks' additional maternity leave. However, there is significant detail that goes beyond this basic principle. For example, a woman on maternity leave who is made redundant is entitled to priority as far as suitable alternative employment is concerned.
Underlying maternity rights is the principle under the Equality Act 2010 that a woman should not be discriminated against because of the protected characteristic of pregnancy and maternity. By ensuring that these rights are understood and enforced throughout a woman’s pregnancy and subsequent maternity leave, your organisation will be providing the right support to your employee and avoiding the risk of a costly and complicated employment tribunal claim.
Laura Merrylees, employment law editor
HR and legal information and guidance relating to pregnant workers and new mothers.