We recently had Women’s Equality Day – a commemoration of the 26th of August 1920 when votes to women officially became part of the US constitution, a huge turning point in the history of the struggle for equal treatment of women and women’s rights.
However, a recent study from the Equality and Human Rights Commission shows that women equality still isn’t where it could be in the workplace and unfortunately women still suffer from pregnancy and maternity discrimination. It revealed that 11% of the women surveyed had been dismissed, made compulsorily redundant or felt they had to leave their jobs because they were treated so poorly. This means that potentially 54,000 British mums are being forced out of their jobs!
To protect your position, in case this happens to you, here’s some top tips on protecting yourself both during your pregnancy and your maternity leave:
- Keep a paper trail – If your colleague or boss says something that you consider to be incorrect or inappropriate make sure to follow it up with an email confirming so. For example, “Dear x, further to our conversation earlier, I just wanted to clarify that you no longer require me to attend the meeting on the 19th of July.” Keeping a hard or soft copy of all relevant documentation may help you with a future claim as this is likely to be good evidence.
- Set boundaries for contact – It’s a good idea to make it clear to your employer how and when you wish to be contacted by them whilst you are on maternity leave. Would you rather be contacted by email or phone? Do you want to be contacted about organisational or departmental changes? Any staff social events or training opportunities for example.
- Be prepared – If you are expecting a pay rise or bonus whilst you are on maternity leave ensure you are prepared and have all the relevant documentation to hand. For example, if you are expecting to receive an end of year bonus, have yours and your department’s performance figures ready as well as copy of the bonus scheme or policy.
- Plan your leave – You might not know how much time you want to take off at first but that’s okay! You are under no pressure to decide when you will come back at the start, all you have to do is give your employer eight weeks’ notice of your intention to return early. However, Shared Parental Leave can be a bit more complicated, so it is wise to plan your leave in advance so all parties know where they stand and when you will return. For more information on Shared Parental Leave, visit our
- Know your rights – Understanding your rights when you’re pregnant/on maternity leave can be really useful, especially if you feel they need to be enforced. QualitySolicitors has a helpful online guide on maternity rights which is available
- Think ahead… – If you are planning on reducing your hours when you return to work, make sure you put in a flexible working request in good time. It is important to remember that an employer has three months from the date of the request to respond; so the sooner you put in your request the better.
- …but be realistic – Although you do have the right to apply for a flexible working request, you have to be realistic with your demands. A request stands the best chance of gaining approval when it successfully balances your needs with the needs of the business.
- Plan in advance – If you are planning on taking Keeping in Touch (KIT) days make sure you agree the hours that you will be able to do and the payment that you will receive with your employer way in advance. You are neither entitled to KIT days nor are you entitled to be paid for these. This all has to be arranged and agreed by you.
- Do your research – Your employer might have family friendly policies and benefits that you could be entitled to such as enhanced maternity pay, increased health care or child-care vouchers.
- Seek out advice – Pregnancy and maternity leave continues to cause women difficulties in the workplace and the law recognises this by introducing protection for women in these circumstances.
For more legal advice and to find your nearest QualitySolicitors firm, visit www.qualitysolicitors.com.