Know your rights! A guide for mums-to-be and new mums

By Rebecca Reid


Whilst not yet a mum myself, I do have lots of friends and family members who are pregnant or have become mums for the first time recently.


One of the things about being a lawyer is that you are always on hand to help with any legal-related enquiries from friends and family!  A question I have been asked a lot is what rights are available to expectant mums and new mums at work.


I imagine this is the same question that resonates with lots of you, and so I have set out the key rights (and responsibilities) at work below:


  • Once an employer knows that you are expecting, they must ensure that you and your unborn child are safe whilst you are in the workplace.  Where necessary, they may conduct a risk assessment or make alternative arrangements for you to ensure they are complying with their health and safety obligations.


  • A pregnant employee is protected from unfair treatment, including dismissal or selection for redundancy for reasons connected with pregnancy and such treatment would also give rise to claims for discrimination.


  • You are entitled to reasonable paid time off to attend ante-natal appointments or other classes advised by your midwife or GP.  Your partner/ the baby’s partner is also entitled to attend up to two ante-natal appointments with you (which will be unpaid).  You should be giving your employer reasonable notice of those appointments where possible and providing evidence of your appointments if requested from your second appointment onwards.


  • All pregnant employees are entitled to take up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave.  Depending on your eligibility, you may also be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). It is imperative that you give the correct notice to your employer of when you want your maternity leave to start (this can be any time from 11 weeks before the week the baby is due) and provide the MATB1 form as soon as it is available.  SMP is paid for up to 39 weeks if you are eligible; if you’re not eligible you may be able to get Maternity Allowance.


  • You may also have heard of the Shared Parental Leave (SPL) scheme and corresponding Statutory Shared Parental Pay (SSPP), which allow mums to share their maternity leave and pay with the father; although new mums must still take the two weeks compulsory maternity leave after the birth. 


  • You continue to accrue annual leave during your maternity leave.  If you return to work, you could choose to add this on to your maternity leave to extend your time off if agreed with your employer, or if you decide not to return then you should be paid for that accrued untaken holiday.


  • If you return to work after maternity leave you are entitled to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions as if you hadn’t been away.  If you have taken additional maternity leave (over the first 26 weeks) and your employer can’t give you the exact job for good reasons then you are entitled to a suitable job at the same level with terms and conditions at least as good as your previous job. 


  • You are also entitled to make a request to change to a flexible working pattern, although it is important that you follow the correct procedure in making the request and an employer must seriously consider your request (although they do not necessarily have to grant it). 


If you are expecting, or are a new mum, and need advice about your rights or responsibilities during or after your pregnancy, the Smith Partnership employment team are happy to assist.  I am available during this week on the forum where you can post questions anonymously and I will get back to you with advice. 


Rebecca Reid

You can also contact me by email on

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