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Legal Rights After Pregnancy?

Legal Rights After Pregnancy?
What are the legal rights for women returning to work after pregnancy?

Having a baby is one of the most exciting and important experiences a woman can go through in her lifetime. However, when it is time to return to work, you may be unsure of your legal rights. It is important to know your legal rights before you return to work so that you are prepared for any potential issues with colleagues or management. This article outlines a woman’s legal rights after returning to work after a period of maternity leave.

Ordinary Maternity Leave

If you are returning to work after Ordinary Maternity Leave (this is the first 26 weeks of Statutory Maternity Leave) you are entitled to return to the same job and the same contractual conditions as if you had never left. There should be no changes to your hours or conditions of work at this stage. The same applies to any Additional Maternity Leave (the last 26 weeks of SML) though things are slightly different here. If you return to work and your boss or employer can show that it is not reasonable for you to return then you do not have the right to return just as normal. For example if your job no longer existed, then you would have to be offered alternative work with the same terms and conditions as your previous role.

Statutory Maternity Leave

Most women are likely
very pregnant woman on laptop
to take the full allowance of Statutory Maternity Leave, which is 52 weeks and most employers would assume that you will take the full allowance. If you take the full allowance then there is really no need to tell your employer that you will be coming back to work, they will usually assume this. However, if for whatever reason you want to return to work earlier than planned then you will need to let your employer know, at least 8 weeks in advance. If you don’t tell your employer this with 8 weeks notice they are able to insist that you cannot return to work until the 8 week period has elapsed.
If you are ill, or you decide that you don’t want to return to work at all then you just need to let your employer know in the normal way.

Flexible Hours

It is a legal right for parents with children aged 16 and under (18 and under in the case of disabled children) to request flexible working hours to be able to care for the child appropriately. If your employer does not recognise this then they are in breach of the law.


Believe it or not, if you wish to breastfeed you must inform your employer in writing before you return. In fairness, your employer will need time to plan for this. They must carry out any risk assessments necessary, to ensure you and your baby will be safe, and they must also supply a safe and discreet rest area where you can breastfeed. There is actually no legal requirement that says employers must provide this area, but it is encouraged.

If you have any problems when returning to work after pregnancy, the best thing to do is to seek fixed rate legal advice from a professional. Do not try to resolve the situation yourself.

May 2012

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