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What rights do pregnant employees have?

What rights do pregnant employees have?

As an employer (or employee...), what rights do pregnant employees have? Are you not sure how to deal with time off for your employees? Our brief checklist should help.

1. Sick Leave

- Pregnant employees have the same rights to paid sick leave as all other employees (apart from the last four weeks of pregnancy). If an employee is ill during their pregnancy, they should still follow their employer's normal sickness reporting procedures. If they qualify, they will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). If the employer normally pays sick pay, over and above SSP, this also requires to be paid.

- Employers should record any pregnancy-related sickness absence separately from other sick leave, so that pregnancy-related sickness absence is not used as a reason for disciplinary action, dismissal or redundancy.

2. Ante-natal appointments

- Pregnant employees have the right to paid time off to attend antenatal care appointments. Antenatal care covers not only medical examinations but also relaxation classes and parentcraft classes. Employers should not unreasonably refuse requests of this nature.

- The right to time off only applies if the appointment is advised by a midwife, health visitor or registered medical practitioner. Employers are therefore entitled to ask for evidence of antenatal appointments (i.e. appointment cards or letters from midwife/GP etc.) with the exception of the first appointment.

- Pregnant employees must be paid their normal hourly rate during the period of time off for antenatal care.

3. Maternity Leave

- It is normally up to the employee to decide when she wishes to start her maternity leave. However, if an employee is absent wholly or partly absent because of a pregnancy-related illness in the last four weeks of her pregnancy, an employer can automatically treat this as starting her maternity leave.

- An employee's maternity leave and pay will start on the day after the first day of her absence from work.


A pregnant employee could bring an unlawful discrimination and/or unfair dismissal claim to a tribunal against an employer if they:

  • dismiss her or treat her unfairly because she tried to exercise her right to time off for antenatal care
  • refuse to pay her sick leave because she is off with a pregnancy-related illness
  • unreasonably refuse her time off for antenatal care
  • deny her normal rate of pay as a result of attending an antenatal appointment

If you need advice on maternity issues please get in touch with our employment team.

Written by : Marianne McJannett