We all know that good employers sometimes make honest mistakes. And unfortunately, we also know that bad employers rarely miss an opportunity to enrich themselves at their employees’ expense. Either way, it’s critical for you to know your legal rights while on maternity leave.
To that end, here are five things that your employer — either unintentionally or deliberately — is forbidden from doing while you are on maternity leave:
- Give you less than 52 weeks of maternity leave.
Provided that you are designated as an employee and not a worker or self-employed, then you are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave, regardless of how long you have worked for your employer. This is comprised of 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave (OML), and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave (AML).
- Refuse to allow you to change your return to work date.
Provided that you give your employer at least 8 weeks notice, you are allowed to change your return to work date.
- Deny you full maternity pay because you did not inform them of your pregnancy when you initially found out.
You are under no obligation to tell your employer of your pregnancy when it is confirmed by your doctor. You are only required to inform your employer at least 15 weeks before your due date. Note that your employer may ask you to request maternity leave in writing, which is acceptable.
- Refuse to provide you with flexible working arrangements if you opt to return to work at the end of your maternity leave.
Upon your request, your employer must make a reasonable and fair effort to accommodate you after you return to work. For example, if you work for a project management company and your primary job is to provide customers with information (e.g. costs for photography, party bus rates, etc.), then it may be mutually agreeable for you to perform this function from a home-based office.
- Make you redundant in an attempt to avoid maternity pay.
You are entitled to statutory maternity pay if all three of these conditions are met: you have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the completion of the qualifying week, which is the 15th week before your baby is due; you were employed for part or all of the qualifying week; and you earn at least an average of £116 in the two months prior to the end of the qualifying week.
The Bottom Line
For the most part, employers are aware of the laws and comply with them. However, as mentioned, sometimes good employers can make mistakes — and bad employers often earn that dubious distinction by flouting labour laws instead of following them. Use the above information to protect your rights. When in doubt — or just to ensure that you are aware of all of your rights and obligations — check out the personalised guidance on maternity rights published by the GOV.UK website. You will find it here.