After an earlier article outlining how to ensure your business is prepared for an employee announcing they are pregnant, here are five practical things you need to think about once someone is pregnant in your business to ensure you’ve covered your legal obligations and supported your employee during her pregnancy.
1. Health and Safety
You need to complete a risk assessment for your pregnant employee. The reality is for many pregnant employees doing a sedentary job at a desk, this doesn’t need to be an onerous task and can be done in conjunction with the employee. Check they are comfortable with their work station, ask them to let you know if anything is a concern to them, either now or in the future, make a note of the discussion including any adjustments made, and continue to review it during the pregnancy.
For some employees, a risk assessment may highlight more significant risks, for example if your employee does a lot of lifting; is exposed to chemicals; or her job is very physical.
You are required to make adjustments to the employee’s role to ensure as far as possible the health and safety of the employee and her baby while she is at work. This might mean providing a chair for employees who stand a lot of the day, adjusting her duties so she is no longer exposed to particularly risky activities, or providing other equipment to ensure she can do her job safely, or even removing her from her job altogether and finding something else for her to do. The Health and Safety Executive has specific guidance on this.
What if it’s not possible to make adjustments?
If a risk assessment identifies that the employee cannot continue in her job, and in the unlikely event that you cannot find anything else at all for her to do, you may need to suspend her from work on Health and Safety grounds. This would be on full pay.
2. Ante-natal care
Your employee is entitled to- reasonable’ time off from work to attend ante-natal appointments, including midwife or GP appointments, hospital appointments and ante-natal classes where these are recommended by a medical professional. This time must be paid; however it is fine to ask to see details of appointments, and to expect your employee where at all possible to schedule appointments at times to cause minimum inconvenience to you.
3. Pregnancy-related illness
If your employee goes off sick during her pregnancy with a condition related to her pregnancy, you only need pay her what you would have paid her for any sickness absence – there is no requirement to pay if this is not part of your normal sick pay arrangements.
However pregnancy-related absence cannot be counted against the employee in a negative way, for example if you may consider disciplinary action for excessive sickness absence, or use sickness records as criteria for redundancy, pregnancy-related sickness cannot be included.
If your employee is off sick during the last four weeks of her pregnancy with a pregnancy-related condition, you can start her maternity leave automatically, even if she had requested to start it later.
4. Reducing hours
Sometimes pregnant employees find the later stages of pregnancy challenging and may request to reduce their hours or change their working arrangements to include a later commute or more homeworking. You are not obliged to agree these requests, and if hours are reduced you only need pay for actual hours worked rather than full salary, however it is sensible to consider requests carefully and be as flexible as possible, to avoid the employee going off sick.
Encourage your pregnant employee to use up as much holiday as possible before her maternity leave starts. She continues to accrue it throughout maternity leave just as she would at work, so there is potentially a lot of holiday to use. Many employees take a chunk at the start of maternity leave allowing them to delay their maternity leave as long as possible, and another option is allowing your employee to take a day or two each week for a period of time to reduce the amount of time she has to work during late pregnancy.
Coming soon, maternity pay basics, what you need to know.
If you need advice on managing pregnancy and maternity leave in your business, contact us 0800 180 4998 or email [email protected].