Pregnant at Work? Know your Rights!
We’ve all heard the horror stories about your friend who announced she was pregnant
and suddenly ‘wasn’t ‘a right fit for the company’. Since the #MeToo movement there has been a growing awareness surrounding how women are treated in the Workplace worldwide. We’re here to tell you that as a pregnant lady, you have rights, you shouldn’t be silenced and we will make your voice heard!
Take a look at some of the rights you have that we see are breached most often!
Your Rights before Maternity Leave:
• You have the right to request a Health and Safety Assessment of your Workplace when pregnant.
• You have the right to ask HR or Management to implement any feedback that comes as a result of that assessment. This may be anything from changing a chair with little to no back support or changing your hours to avoid sitting in major traffic without being able to go to the bathroom etc. This kind of accommodation should be made for you while pregnant.
• You have the right to be ‘reasonably accommodated’ in your employment should you not be able to do your job due to your pregnancy. This means you should be given a different job within the business that you are capable of doing and will not cause you any strain while pregnant.
• You have the right to request time off to attend doctors appointments and scans while pregnant. You should be paid the same wage for this day however may be required to work back in that time over a number of days. Some employers may need to see an appointment card for proof of appointment.
• You should be treated the same as any other employee as regards opportunities, pay raises, perks and benefits etc. while pregnant.
• Decisions should not be made on your behalf as to why you should not have to travel, attend work abroad when your rest breaks or maternity leave should start or begin. You should make these decisions yourself and inform the relevant person.
• You must make your employer aware of your intention to take Maternity leave at least 4 weeks in advance. We also encourage that you do this in writing.
• If the situation arises where your employer cannot give you work or cannot remove the risks founds in your risk assessment, you have the right to stay at home with a certificate from your doctor declaring the workplace unsafe for you at this time.
• If you are applying for a job while pregnant, you cannot be asked any questions in relation to your pregnancy such as ‘How far along are you?’
• You cannot be asked any questions regarding your Family Status or Number of Children.
• You should also never be asked if you intend on having more children or any similar discriminatory questions.
Your Rights while on Maternity Leave
• You are entitled to 26 weeks statutory Maternity leave. Not all employers will pay this and it depends on the details of your employment contract. However, may be entitled to avail of Maternity Benefit.
• You are entitled to request an additional 16 weeks unpaid Maternity leave which can start immediately at the end of the 26 weeks statutory leave.
• A further extension is available to mothers who have given birth prematurely. Maternity Benefit will not cover these additional periods. Your employer is also not obliged to pay you for these periods.
• Under the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004, you are required to finish up work for Maternity leave at least 2 weeks before your babies expected due date and must remain out of work for at least 4 weeks after it’s birth.
• If you become ill during these additional periods of leave, you can ask your employer to end your Maternity leave and go on sick leave to avail of Illness Benefit.
• You are entitled to regular leave as any other employee while on Maternity leave. Therefore, should you encounter a public holiday while on Maternity leave, this day should be accrued as Annual Leave.
• Should the worst ever happen that a stillbirth or miscarriage occurs after week 24 of your pregnancy, you are entitled to your full Maternity leave period. This includes the statutory 26 weeks and a further 16 weeks thereafter. Should you have the correct PRSI requirements, Maternity Benefit is payable for the first 26 week period.
• In order to apply for Maternity Benefit in the event of a stillbirth, your doctor will need to send a letter containing the Maternity Benefit application form and confirming the expected date of birth, the actual date of birth and the number of weeks of pregnancy.
• In the event of a premature birth, you are entitled to claim the difference between the actual date of birth and the expected date of birth back in Maternity leave. Eg. If your expected due date is the second week of June but instead, your baby is born in the third week of May, this is a difference of three weeks. Your Maternity leave will begin the day you give birth, you are entitled to the statutory 26 weeks and then an additional 3 weeks!
• You must give your employer 4 weeks written notice of your intention to return to work.
• You cannot be dismissed while on Maternity leave.
• If you are dismissed while of Maternity leave, you have 6 months from the date of dismissal to take legal action to the Workplace Relations Commission – We can help with this!
Your Rights after Maternity Leave:
• You have the right to be treated the same as all other employees upon your return to work.
• You should be placed back in your job. If any changes were made to your job while you were on Maternity leave, they should be agreed by you on your return. If you do not agree to these changes, they should not be enforced and you should return to your job.
• Should it not be possible to return to the exact job you should be placed in something similar with similar pay and a similar level of responsibility provided you agree to it.
• You have the right to ask your employer for breastfeeding breaks. You should do this before you return to work in order to plan. This will also mean a risk assessment needs to be done as employers need to provide a safe and healthy environment for this.
• If you were on probation, completing an internship or an apprentice when you announced you were pregnant and when your Maternity leave began, your contract/agreement should be frozen and therefore continue upon your return to work.
• You should not lose any annual leave upon return from your Maternity leave.
We ask that you bring these rights to the attention of your pregnant friends, partners and family.
Should you feel like your rights have been breached in any way during your pregnancy, let us know and we can discuss your legal options. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 051 841 641.