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Want to stay on the right side of the law? We support businesses and public authorities and help them to promote good practice.

Practical steps

Pregnancy and maternity

What you need to know


Pregnancy and maternity in the workplace - What steps should I take as an employer?

You will need to ensure that you, and your managers, understand your legal duties, are committed to fulfilling them and make decisions in a reasoned, consistent and fair manner.

You can achieve this by:

Developing and implement our model policies


Reviewing recruitment, selection and career development procedures

This is to ensure your procedures are systematic, fair and objective. This is a general good practice recommendation that is made not merely in respect to the treatment of new and expectant mothers, but to promote equality of opportunity for all persons and to prevent unlawful discrimination.

You must ensure that:

  • when calculating continuous length-of-service for any purpose, all periods of absence for pregnancy-related reasons and maternity leave must be counted towards the sum (and not deducted)
  • you inform employees who are absent for pregnancy-related reasons or on maternity leave about training, promotional and other job opportunities that arise in the organisation during their absences and give them a fair and equal opportunity to apply.

Reviewing how pregnancy and maternity-related absences are handled

Care must be taken when dealing with absences that are related to pregnancy or maternity leave. For example, it is likely to be unlawful to penalise an employee for taking pregnancy-related sickness absences or maternity leave when applying redundancy selection criteria, or when considering whether to take disciplinary action in relation to such absences.

You should review your recruitment and selection, and absence management policies and procedures so that:


  • pregnancy-related sickness absences and maternity leave absences are recorded separately from other types of sickness and other absences
  • when calculating an employee’s continuous length-of-service for any purpose (e.g. when applying seniority criteria in a redundancy selection exercise), count periods of absence for pregnancy-related reasons and maternity leave towards the sum (and do not deduct them)
  • do not count pregnancy-related sickness absences when calculating an employee’s total sickness record
  • do not count time-off for ante-natal care or maternity leave when calculating an employee’s other absences from work.

Setting up systematic and objective procedures for implementing policies

For example, you should have procedures in place for:


  • complying with duties under health and safety law
  • granting employees’ statutory and contractual employment rights, such as rights to time-off to attend for ante-natal care, maternity leave and pay
  • considering employees’ requests for flexible working arrangements and for implementing the decisions that are made.

Informing employees about the policies and procedures

For example, include the policies and procedures in your employees’ handbooks, or on workplace intranets or notice boards.

Providing training to all managers

The purpose of such training is to enable managers to understand their employer’s legal responsibilities in relation to employees who are expectant and new mothers, and their own responsibilities under their employer’s relevant policies and procedures.

Keeping the policies and procedures under review

Monitor and review the effectiveness of employment policies to assess their impact on the promotion of equality of opportunity. This should be done periodically; for example, every year or every 3 years, depending on what is appropriate for you.
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