The issue of maternity and pregnancy rights is clearly, and obviously, an important consideration for women workers. Many workers are ill-informed as to their rights relating to maternity and pregnancy. In this post we will therefore look at what rights relating to maternity and pregnancy women have at work. A future post in the series will look at the options and remedies open to women when their pregnancy and maternity rights are violated by their employer.

As we saw in the previous post, there are five main rights relating to pregnancy and maternity that women possess:

  • The right (and the employer’s corresponding duty) to have a risk assessment carried out to assess whether women of childbearing age are at risk
  • To be suspended from work (in limited circumstances, mostly relating to health and safety or night-working)
  • The right to have suitable rest facilities provided (if the woman has given birth in the last six months or is breast feeding)
  • The right to go on statutory maternity leave
  • The right to have time off for ante-natal appointments

This post will address the general issues relating to the “main” right when employees are pregnant – the right to go on statutory maternity leave either prior to or after the birth of the woman’s child. It will address which workers are entitled to go on statutory maternity leave.

The right to go on statutory maternity leave

The right to go on maternity leave can be divided into two “sub-rights”:

  • The right to take Ordinary Maternity Leave (or “OML”)
  • The right to take Additional Maternity Leave (or “AML”)

The conditions and entitlements relating to Ordinary Maternity Leave will be addressed in the next post and the conditions and entitlements relating to Additional Maternity Leave in the following post.

Who can go on statutory maternity leave?

All pregnant employees are entitled to go on statutory maternity leave, but not other categories of workers. This is an important issue – it will be necessary to find out whether you are an employee or otherwise prior to determine whether you’re entitled to exercise rights to statutory maternity leave. However, there are some important exceptions to the right: the constabulary, armed forces, and share fisherwomen aren’t entitled to exercise rights relating to statutory maternity leave.

What happens if there’s a stillbirth or miscarriage?

If there is a stillbirth or miscarriage up to 24 weeks before 24 weeks of pregnancy have elapsed then the employee is not entitled to take maternity leave. However, employees should normally be allowed to take a period of sick leave (or compassionate leave) should a miscarriage or stillbirth occur. Should the employee not be allowed to take sick leave or compassionate leave this may be direct or indirect sex discrimination (should other employees with comparable illnesses or problems be allowed to take sick leave or compassionate leave), or discrimination relating to pregnancy.


The Direct 2 Lawyers Employment Team post daily on interesting employment law cases, Employment Tribunal judgments and Employment Appeal Tribunal judgments. All of the Employment Team posts are written by qualified specialist employment lawyers

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