Case Study - Maternity
It is essential that employers are fully aware of their responsibilities when they are informed by an employee of her pregnancy.
This case study gives examples of what employers may need to consider when they have a pregnant employee.
Pregnant employees and employees on maternity leave have a protected characteristic which are protected by employment law.
It is important to have a comprehensive maternity policy in place and when an employee advises of their pregnancy it is recommended that employers re-familiarise themselves with the policy and procedures ensuring they are fully compliant. If there are any concerns or anomalies it is best to seek professional advice before taking any action that could lead to an employee feeling discriminated against.
Refer to the page on Maternity Leave for further guidance.
The Company is a manufacturer of hazardous substances and Joanne works on the production line. Joanne has worked for the company for just over a year, just recently she has been taking a lot of odd days' sickness. The Company has a sickness absence policy in place which includes triggers to commence discussions with an employee who has been having excessive spells of sickness absence. When Joanne returned to work, in line with the absence management policy, her manager conducted a return-to-work interview. When the manager asked if there was an underlying medical reason for the absences, Joanne advised she was pregnant but had not wanted to announce this until after her first scan. The manager congratulated Jo and confirmed the matter would be kept confidential until Joanne was ready to announce the happy news herself. The manager also confirmed that they would need to carry out an individual risk assessment with her.
Following the meeting, the Manager re-familiarised herself with the maternity policy, accordingly she wrote to Joanne congratulating her on her pregnancy and asked for her to submit her MatB1 when it was issued by her midwife (usually around 22-24 weeks into the pregnancy) (see templates letters). She also asked her to complete a risk assessment form and return this as soon as possible (see Pregnancy Risk Assessment).
The risk assessment identified a number of hazards, and it became apparent that Joanne could no longer work on the production line during her pregnancy. She needed to either be found an alternative position or to be placed on paid leave until she commenced her maternity leave. Her employer explained the situation that they have a duty of care, which included removing her from any potential risk (to her and her unborn child). Rather than placing her on paid leave (which would be unproductive to the Company), they had an opportunity in the packing room, labelling up packages and logging orders. There was also somewhere for Joanne to sit and rest when she needed to. Joanne was grateful for her employer’s care and support.
The employer was aware that Joanne was entitled to attend anti-natal appointments and be paid whilst she was attending. However, it seemed that Joanne had appointments almost every week and nearly always in the middle of the day, her manager was a little suspicious. Her manager asked Joanne to bring in her appointment card so that she could plan around any appointments. Joanne happily complied with this request and explained the reason for the number of absences was because they were closely monitoring her as she was diabetic.
Joanne continued to have lots of absences including some that didn’t appear to be pregnancy related, but when asked about them, she would say that she was unable to treat the symptoms of colds or other common ailments as she couldn’t take any medication during her pregnancy.
Joanne’s temporary placement continued to be successful, albeit that she had a lot of absences. Joanne brought in the MatB1 and confirmed she would like to start her (one year) maternity leave the week before her due date. Her manager wrote to her confirming her dates of leave and her entitlements including statutory maternity pay (SMP), holiday and the option of keeping in touch (KIT) days.
Joanne continued to have a difficult pregnancy and 4 weeks before her due date her consultant advised her to have complete rest as her sugar levels were too high and signed her as unfit for work. In line with the maternity policy, her manager brought forward the maternity leave dates to commence immediately and wrote to her with the revised dates of her maternity leave and that all other entitlements as set out in the previous letter remain unchanged.