HR & Employment Law Insights

Helping family businesses, start-ups, charities, social enterprises, and other growing or established businesses throughout the UK make sense of HR and Employment Law challenges.

Pregnant employees sometimes need additional support

Any workplace needs to ensure that there are policies in place to protect pregnant employees and ensure that the organisation is likewise protected from unnecessary litigation and tribunal cases brought by parents-to-be whose employers have fallen foul of the law.

In addition to meeting legal requirements, there are also additional policies that organisations may wish to consider to entice working mothers to work with the company and stay with them after they have their babies.

Background

Historically, pregnant women were treated poorly in the workplace and women could expect a rough deal from employers if and when they decided to start a family. Many employers saw pregnant women as a drain on their resources and would go out of their way to ensure that they were quickly removed from the payroll.

While employment of women on an equal basis with men was addressed in legislation relatively early on in the moves to bring greater equality to the workplace for employees from diverse backgrounds, pregnant women continued to suffer discrimination on the grounds of their pregnancies.

Today, women's rights to equal treatment are protected in law throughout their pregnancy and subsequent parenting years. It is now unlawful to discriminate against a woman in the workplace on the grounds of pregnancy. This includes in terms of offering employment, continuing employment or denying women access to equal chances for progress and promotion.

The right side of the law

In order to ensure that your company stays on the right side of the law, it makes sense to have clear policies in place that set out what is expected of managers and employees when dealing with pregnant members of staff. There are plenty of template policies available that can help new companies and small businesses to get something in place that is compliant with the law and good practice.

Good working practices

Pregnant staff members will need time off for medical appointments

Ensuring that your company is doing what's right rather than just doing the minimum works well for organisations on a number of levels. Staff members who are clear on what they can expect from the company are more likely to feel secure enough to continue working through their pregnancy and return afterwards rather than seek alternative employment, thereby leaving you with the headache of recruitment and selection. It also works well for initiatives such as Investors in People and Good Places to Work to have clear policies that your employees can rely on.

In addition to covering the legal aspects of protecting and supporting pregnant employees, it is useful for policies to cover what is expected of employees while they are pregnant and what they can expect from the company. This should include protecting the health and safety of pregnant employees whilst still at work, including job risk assessment and modified work roles where necessary; policies on notice periods for maternity leave and the completion of relevant paperwork to apply for leave; taking time off for health care appointments; and the specific terms of maternity benefits including qualifying periods for enhanced benefits if that's something your company chooses to offer and the specific rates of pay to which women will be entitled.

Attracting and retaining staff

In addition to keeping your company out of metaphorical jail and ingratiating yourself with various accreditation bodies, the way you treat pregnant employees - and the way you communicate those intentions - can help to recruit and retain the right kind of members of staff and keep them for the long haul. Anyone in business knows how costly it is to find good people and the time it takes to induct and train a new team member. The last thing any company wants is to lose people due to following outdated practices or making members of the team feel undervalued. This is something well worth bearing in mind when putting together your policy. Benchmarking against other organisations and following published good practice is a good way to get the right kind of policy in place the first time.

Conclusion

It won't be possible for any policy to cover every single eventuality but they can cover off the majority of situations and give guidelines on dealing with things that are exceptional and fall outside the usual remit of the policy. Seeking out best practice and being clear on your legal obligations as an employer are a good starting point to getting a good policy in place that covers everything you need it to.

If you are interested in finding out more about how The HR Booth can help you, please get in touch.