When an Employee Tells you She’s Pregnant, What Do You Do?

Photograph of Jenefer Livings, Founder of Silk Helix Ltd
6 October 2023
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Firstly, congratulate her and don’t panic! It can feel scary as a small business owner, the impact on your business can be huge. It’s also a potential opportunity and if she’s told you at the early stages when most do then you’ve got time to make plans.

The key is to understand her rights and entitlements so that you can do the right thing. Alongside this, keep the communication open so you both understand what is going on and can make plans together.

Rights and entitlements of a pregnant employee are complex, we recommend that you take advice as soon as you are informed of the pregnancy. Pregnant employees have a right not to be discriminated against, however, this does not mean you should be too scared to say anything - open communication is crucial.

People react differently to pregnancy, having a child is a very personal matter and women are encouraged by society to keep secret about their plans for children and even their pregnancy for the first 12 weeks. This may mean having to work a little harder to open the communication. She may be anxious, may or may not have good support at home and bodies react differently. This is without mentioning the hormonal changes experienced by pregnant women - put all of this together and it is unsurprising you may experience some challenges with supporting your pregnant employee in the workplace.

The key is communication. When you’re first told, give yourself time to think and take advice. Tell her you’ll find out her entitlements and sit down and talk it through with her. Talk to her about her options for starting and ending maternity leave as well as taking holiday - by talking to her about her options you enable her to talk to you about her plans. Knowing what she is planning is crucial for your business planning.

Don’t forget to agree how you will communicate while she is off work, ask her what she wants but also let her know you’ll be keeping her informed of any business changes.

Maternity Entitlements: The Headlines

  • Right to paid time off for antenatal care
  • Protection against discrimination
  • Health and safety duties - consider specific risks to pregnant employees
  • 52 weeks maternity leave - 33 weeks attracting SMP if entitled
  • Option to end maternity leave and take shared parental leave
  • Up to 10 keeping-in-touch days
  • Holiday continues to accrue during maternity leave
  • Right to return to work
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