Pregnant workers and new mothers

Laura Merrylees Editor's message: For an employment right that is so frequently invoked, the rules relating to pregnancy and maternity can be complex and misunderstood. It is therefore crucial that employers understand the relevant rights and obligations, so that pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace are fully supported.

In principle, the position is straightforward. Regardless of length of service, every pregnant employee has the right to take 26 weeks' ordinary maternity leave, followed immediately by 26 weeks' additional maternity leave. However, there is significant detail that goes beyond this basic principle. For example, women on maternity leave (and from 6 April 2024, pregnant employees and those who have returned to work from maternity leave) who are made redundant are entitled to priority as far as suitable alternative employment is concerned.

Underlying maternity rights is the principle under the Equality Act 2010 that a woman should not be discriminated against because of the protected characteristic of pregnancy and maternity. By ensuring that these rights are understood and applied throughout a woman’s pregnancy and maternity leave, your organisation will be providing the right support to your employee and avoiding the risk of a costly and complicated employment tribunal claim.

Laura Merrylees, Senior employment law editor

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HR and legal information and guidance relating to pregnant workers and new mothers.