The new 'Pregnant then Screwed" campaign has shone a light on pregnancy discrimination in UK workplaces, with organisers behind the campaign citing that as many as 60,000 women are forced out of their jobs a year due to pregnancy.
To help prevent this statistic from rising any further, Rhiannon Thomas, Discrimination at Work solicitor at QualitySolicitors Burroughs Day provides advice around protecting yourself in the workplace, both during pregnancy and maternity leave:
- Keep a paper trail - If your colleague or boss says something that you consider to be inappropriate or incorrect, follow it up with an email. For example, "Dear x, further to our conversation earlier, I just wanted to clarify that you no longer require me to attend the networking lunch on 5 June". Keeping a documentary trail of what is happening may prove useful in the long run.
- Set boundaries for contact - Before you commence maternity leave, it is a good idea to think of when/how you wish to be contacted by your employer. Would you prefer to be contacted by email or telephone? What do you want to be contacted about? Organisational wide changes? Departmental wide changes? Any changes to your workload? What do you want to be informed about? Staff social events? Training opportunities? Think about all of these things and make it clear to your manager how and when you would wish to be contacted whilst on maternity leave.
- Be prepared - If an event will occur whilst you are on maternity leave and you need documentation or information relating to this, prepare for it in advance. For instance, if you are expecting to receive a bonus, make sure that you have your performance figures to hand, a copy of the bonus scheme/policy, departmental performance figures etc.
- Plan your leave - You might not know how much time you want to take off at the outset and that is fine. Provided that you give your employer the requisite (8 weeks') notice of your intention to return early, you are under no pressure to decide at the start. However, if you are contemplating taking Shared Parental Leave (SPL), it is worth being organised. The arrangements for SPL are causing employers headaches and it is preferable for all parties to know where they stand with leave as soon as possible.
- Know your rights - It is useful to understand what your rights are now that you are pregnant or due to go off on maternity leave so that you can enforce them if necessary.
- Be realistic - We have dealt with countless flexible working request rejections that were doomed to fail. A flexible working request stands the best chance of meeting with approval when it balances the needs of the new mother with the needs of the business. There is a way to achieve what you want. If in doubt, take advice!
- Think ahead - If you are planning on reducing your hours when you return to work, make sure you put in a flexible working request in good time. Remember that an employer has three months from the date of the request to respond; so don't wait until the last minute to make a request to work flexibly.
- Advance planning can be very important. If you are planning on carrying out Keeping in Touch (KIT) days, make sure you agree in advance the hours that you will be able to do and the payment that you will receive. There is no entitlement to payment for KIT days, so this must be agreed in advance with your employer.
- Check your policies - Your employer might have family friendly policies that you could benefit from. You could be entitled to enhanced maternity pay, or additional benefits such as increased health cover or child-care vouchers. If you do have the option of adding dependents to private health cover, make sure that you update the provider of the scheme/your employer once your baby is born.
- Take advice. The law recognises that pregnancy and maternity leave continues to cause difficulties for women in the workplace and it has catered for that, by introducing protection for women in these circumstances. If you need some advice or help, please get in touch. At QualitySolicitors we provide a Free First Advice service and will listen to your situation and can explain what the next steps are.
For more advice and to find your nearest QualitySolicitors firm, visit our website on www.qualitysolicitors.com.