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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 February 2005, 13:05 GMT
Q&A: Pregnant workers' rights
Pregnant woman
Thousands of pregnant women face job discrimination
About 30,000 women a year are sacked, made redundant or leave their jobs due to pregnancy discrimination, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has said.

The BBC News website looks at pregnant employees' workplace rights.

What rights do I have at work while pregnant?

The legal rights of pregnant workers are guaranteed under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Employment Rights Act 1996.

Your employer should arrange for you to have a workplace assessment once they know of your pregnancy.

The aim of the risk assessment is to pick up on any aspects of your job which may endanger your health while pregnant.

In addition, full and part-time pregnant employees are entitled to take paid time off to attend ante-natal classes and health check-ups.

What protection is there against discrimination?

Under current legislation, workers should not be passed over for promotion, have their pay docked or be sacked purely because they are pregnant.

If, for example, a pregnant woman is sacked after being late for work due to a bout of morning sickness, she could claim discrimination.

What maternity rights do I have?

New mothers are entitled to 26 weeks off, regardless of how long they have worked for their employer.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) guarantees to pay 90% of average earnings for the first six weeks of leave followed by 20 weeks at 102.80 per week.

New mothers are also entitled to take another 26 weeks of additional leave.

Any additional leave is usually unpaid, but some companies will contribute.

What rights do I have when I return to work after giving birth?

You should be allowed to take up your old post on the same money as before.

However, if you take more than six months maternity leave, you lose the right to get your old post back.

Under such circumstances, the employer is duty bound to offer you suitable alternative employment.

If a worker is made redundant while on maternity leave, the onus is on the employer to show that they have not been discriminatory.

Since 2003, workers with children under the age of six have the right to ask for flexible working arrangements.

The employer can refuse but only if they have a good business reason.

What workplace rights do fathers have?

Fathers have far fewer workplace rights than mothers.

During the pregnancy, they do not have the right to time off to accompany their partner to ante-natal classes or health appointments.

Following birth, they are entitled to two weeks on Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP) 102.80 per week or 90% of their average weekly earnings if they earn less than 102.80 a week.

Fathers of children under six have the right to request flexible working.

What action should I take if I think my rights are being ignored?

For starters, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) recommends that you talk with your employer about your grievance.

Hopefully, you can sort things out without having to go to an employment tribunal.

Put any complaints you have in writing, keep a diary of what is going on and make a record of any emails received.

If you find that your concerns are not being dealt with, you may be entitled to take a case to employment tribunal.

However, be aware that you must make your complaint within three months of the discrimination taking place.

The EOC runs a helpline for people considering taking a case to tribunal. Its number is 0845 601 5901.

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