Maternity Rights and the HR Manager

Pregnancy test - Maternity Rights and the HR Manager

March 2019

Maternity Rights and the HR Manager

With Mothering Sunday an important fixture on this month’s calendar it’s a good time to think about maternity rights in the workplace.

So, picture the scene: one of your employees has told you that she is pregnant. It’s best you know and understand now that your responsibilities as an employer go much further than rushing out to buy flowers and a giant teddy bear. And that’s always a welcome gesture of course. 

Pregnancy test - Maternity Rights and the HR Manager

Job roles within small firms tend to be more diverse than in a larger organisation. One person might have several responsibilities, specialized knowledge and well-established customer/supplier relationships. All of which can generate panic in the business owner at the prospect of finding a temporary replacement.

As a business owner you need to be conversant with the full range of employment rights available to pregnant women, new mothers and new fathers. The legal consequences if you get it wrong are serious. If you’re not up to speed and feel you need help then get in touch. Go-Legal HR can give you all the support you need.

Here in the UK, statutory maternity, paternity and adoption rights apply to parents both before and after either the birth of their own baby or adoption of a child. These rights provide parents with the time they need to meet their family responsibilities whilst retaining their right to come back to work.

Fathers, adoptive parents and same-sex partners are all entitled to paternity or maternity leave, adoption and shared parental leave. That’s before we even mention flexible working or the wider area of health & safety and the need to take proper precautions with pregnant employees (e.g. risk assessments).

Employees enjoy an extensive range of rights and entitlements in relation to becoming a parent. This creates a veritable minefield for you to contend with, while ensuring you avoid any risk of discrimination against your employee.

For example, what would your approach be if an employee asked for time off for IVF treatment?

I’d hope that most employers would show consideration and understanding and allow the time off. As indeed they should. Particularly when faced with the knowledge that a recent Employment Tribunal held that, refusing to allow an employee time off work for IVF treatment, amounted to direct sex discrimination. The Tribunal in question found that the employer would not have treated a man the same way. The upshot here was a compensation award of over £24K.

In another recent case, an employee informed her employer of her pregnancy, only to hear later the same day that her position was at risk of redundancy. Signed off sick, her employer threatened her with disciplinary action.  One can argue bad timing. Yet the Employment Tribunal held that the threat of redundancy and disciplinary action she received, arose because of her pregnancy. She received a compensation award in excess of £40K. More than enough to equip the nursery.

This is not to suggest that all employers would find themselves in similar situations. But these are two examples of recent cases where the Employment Tribunal found in favour of the claimant and found the employer guilty of discrimination.

So, if you are not sure, please ask and avoid the risk of significant compensation awards.

Plan Ahead

The cases I’ve mentioned above arose from employers trying to wriggle out of doing the decent thing and supporting their member of staff. You’ve seen the consequences of that for the two cases mentioned. And, although anonymous, they’re real enough.

So, don’t evade – plan ahead. Act in an appropriate manner as soon as your employee gives you the glad tidings. Remember – babies can arrive early. It’s best to expect the unexpected and plan for that. Failure so to do can leave you recruiting the wrong replacement meaning you’ll have to repeat the process – thus wasting time and money.

If you need other staff members to take on extra work during this period you need to speak to them ASAP. That way you’ll avoid resentment building up.

Go-Legal HR can support you with the recruitment of temporary staff if that’s what you need, so you don’t take on the wrong person. In addition, we can help you draw up a checklist of key actions for you and a timetable for when you need to do each thing to make the process as smooth as possible.

Don’t leave a pregnant pause – get in touch now so that you’re prepared to support your employee having the baby – and those still running your business.