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Practical guidance for pregnant employees

By June 27, 2023Employment

An employee notifies the employer that they are pregnant

This should be done by the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC). The employee should also tell the employer the EWC and when she expects her ordinary maternity leave to commence (which should be no earlier than 11 weeks before the EWC)

Employer’s acknowledgement

Once the employer has received notice of the date the employee has chosen to start maternity leave, it has 28 days to notify the employee of the date on which their maternity leave will end. This will be 52 weeks from the start of maternity leave. If there are any changes to the date maternity leave is due to commence, the employer must notify the employee of the updated end date within 28 days.

Right to time off for antenatal appointments

Once the employee has notified the employer of their pregnancy, they have a statutory right to paid time off during working hours for antenatal care and appointments.

MAT B1 certificate

The employer should request a MAT B1 certificate from the employee. However, please note this cannot be signed by a doctor or midwife until the 20th week before the expected date of childbirth. 

Health and safety

The law requires the employer to assess workplace risks posed to new or expectant mothers or their babies and to alter the employee’s working conditions or hours to avoid any significant risk. The employer should consider carrying out a general and/or specific risk assessment. Where risk cannot be avoided, the employer should consider suitable alternative work or suspension of the employee on full pay. We recommend that advice is sought if this situation arises.

Pregnancy-related sickness
If an employee is treated unfavourably due to pregnancy-related illness, this may constitute unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination. Any pregnancy-related absence or maternity leave should be ignored in respect of consideration for promotion or the assessment of any other benefits. We recommend that advice is sought if there are issues with absences during pregnancy.

Annual leave
Individuals on maternity leave continue to accrue their statutory and contractual leave entitlement during maternity leave.
Annual leave cannot be taken during maternity leave and therefore the employer must allow the employee to take annual leave outside of the maternity leave period.
An employee may need to ‘carry over’ annual leave.

Maternity leave
Statutory maternity leave is 52 weeks
Ordinary maternity leave = first 26 weeks
Additional maternity leave= last 26 weeks
Usually, the earliest maternity leave can be commenced is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. However, leave will also start the day after the birth if the baby is early or automatically if an individual is off work with pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks before the baby is due.
An individual must provide 8 weeks’ notice if they want to change the return to work date
During maternity leave, an employee is entitled to ‘the benefit of the terms and conditions of employment which would have applied had they not been absent’. Therefore, with the exception of pay/salary, all other benefits (such as the accrual of annual leave, health club membership etc) will continue.
Continuous employment will accrue during maternity leave.
Reasonable contact can be made during maternity leave and employees on maternity leave should be kept up to date about promotions, company news etc
An employee may work for up to ten keeping in touch (KIT) days during maternity leave

Disciplinary / dismissal / redundancy during maternity leave
This is a complex area and we recommend that advice is sought before commencing any disciplinary or redundancy exercises involving employees who are on maternity leave.

Statutory maternity pay
Statutory maternity pay (SMP) is paid for up to 39 weeks and is made up as follows:-

  • 90% of the average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first six weeks;
  • £172.48 or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.
  • Eligibility – employees must earn at least £123 per week, give the correct notice and proof of pregnancy and have worked for the same employer continuously for at least 26 weeks before the ‘qualifying week’ – the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth
  • If an employee is not eligible for SMP, they may be eligible for maternity allowance

Returning to work after maternity leave

  • An employee has the right to return to the same job (or in limited circumstances, a suitable alternative with no less favourable conditions). If this does not happen, there is risk of legal claims being brought against the employer.
  • An employee has the right to request flexible working. Employers must deal with a request in a reasonable manner and notify the outcome to the employee within a three-month decision period.
  • There is no statutory right to time off work for breastfeeding. However, there are health and safety considerations and protections whilst an employee is breastfeeding which employers should make themselves aware of.

If you require any assistance or want to discuss any specific concerns regarding pregnancy in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the employment team at

You can find more of the latest legal updates here.

Employment Team

Author Employment Team

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