Pregnancy and maternity rights in the workplace are perhaps one of the most misunderstood areas of employment law for employers and individuals alike. As a result, all sorts of myths have grown up over the years. We often get queries on this topic and have picked our “top three” to answer in this article. But, if you have got more questions, read our more detailed article: pregnancy and employment law – your top questions answered
Does an employer have a right to know I’m pregnant when I’m applying for a job?
In a word, no. There’s no legal requirement for you to inform a potential employer that you’re pregnant when you go for an interview.
In the past, some employers have dismissed new employees upon finding out they were pregnant, and tried to argue that not disclosing the pregnancy at interview showed a lack of honesty and integrity. However, this argument has been firmly rejected by courts and tribunals.
The bottom line is, employers are not allowed to discriminate against you on the basis of your pregnancy (both during recruitment and afterwards), they must assess your suitability for the vacancy on objective grounds, the fact of any pregnancy is irrelevant and must not be taken into account.
If you’re dismissed for any reason related to your pregnancy, the dismissal will be automatically unfair and you can bring a claim, regardless of whether you’ve been employed for five years or five days.
Is my employer allowed to contact me while I’m on maternity leave?
Yes, the law makes it clear that they can and indeed should keep in contact with you while you’re off. If they don’t, it could be considered sex discrimination if you miss out on hearing about internal vacancies or promotions or other business related announcements.
But, it’s a good idea to talk to your employer about what level of contact is best for you and how you would like to receive updates. For example, do you want essential emails only (updates on pay rises, bonuses, reorganisations, etc.) or would you like to hear about the annual summer party, too?
What if my employer likes my maternity cover better, can they move me to a different job when I return?
No, they can’t. You have the right to return to the same job, so your employer must allow you to go back to your old role and cannot keep the maternity cover in that job. If your job no longer exists, perhaps because of a reorganisation while you have been off, then your employer must find you another suitable role, which is as similar as possible to your old job, on your return.
How can we help you?
If you would like to know more about your employment rights during pregnancy and while on maternity leave, talk to our employment law specialists today. We’ll help you figure out the best way forward for you.