Balancing the Bump - Working whilst pregnant, sickness and absence issues - 1230 TWC

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Balancing the Bump – Working whilst pregnant, sickness and absence issues

Annabel: Pregnant women are protected from discrimination, so you should not be treated worse than a male colleague on sick leave if you are off with a pregnancy-related sickness. Even if your employer’s sick pay scheme is ‘discretionary’, this does not entitle them to exercise their discretion in an unlawfully discriminatory way. You should take advice if you feel you are being treated differently to other sick colleagues.

Laura: A condition which affects mobility is Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) which causes pain in the pubic area. This can be debilitating and you may find it hard to walk, so the commute becomes impossible . If appropriate, you could work from home or see if your employer would stretch to a taxi in and out of work. You could also see if your role could change, for example working on a different project or in a different department until you go on leave. Your GP may issue you a fit note, which is a sick note listing what you are fit for, and what adjustments are needed to get you back to work.

Annabel: Employers are not obliged to adjust your role in line with “fit note” recommendations. Many employers will make adjustments for you, but if they can’t then you will be off sick until you are fit to return to normal duties, at whatever rate of sick pay you are entitled to. If you work with lead, radioactive substances or hazardous chemicals that potentially put your unborn child at risk (your job’s risk assessment should show this), then your employer has a duty to adjust your role, offer you alternative employment (at the same rate of pay) or even suspend you on pay in order to protect you and your unborn child. This is extremely rare and does not cover any general worries you might have – for example being exposed to coughs and colds during the winter etc. If you unreasonably refuse an alternative role, you may not be paid. Take advice if you find yourself in this situation.

Laura: Your employer is able to start your maternity leave early if you take time off in your last 4 weeks before your due date because of a pregnancy related illness.

Annabel: This is because maternity leave is triggered by pregnancy related absence (including illness) during the last four weeks. A common reason for this is the baby coming early. If you do start maternity leave earlier than planned, remember you need to come back earlier than planned!

There is no reason why pregnancy needs to be a problem for employers if they support their team in the right way and communicate effectively.

Do you have a query that you’d like Laura or Annabel to answer? Follow this link and post your question for them –


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