Sick Leave Due to Pregnancy

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Health Assured team

13 October 2021

Pregnant employees are more likely to have higher levels of sickness absence.
Pregnancy-related sickness absence can vary from other sickness absences. As an employer, you must make reasonable adjustments for pregnant workers.

This guide will consider pregnancy-related sick leave from an employer perspective.

We’ll also look at common reasons for sick leave during pregnancy, making reasonable adjustments and pregnancy leave sick pay.

What are the reasons for sick leave during pregnancy?

There are several reasons an employee might need to take time off work sick whilst pregnant.

Here are a few common pregnancy-related illnesses:

  • Vomiting or morning sickness.
  • Backache.
  • Tiredness.
  • Stomach pains.
  • Bleeding.
  • Headaches.
  • Fainting.

Employees should report pregnancy-related sickness absences like regular sickness absences. Employers can ask workers to provide a doctor’s note confirming that the absence is pregnancy related.

Recording pregnancy-related sickness

You must record pregnancy-related sickness absences separately from standard sick leave.

This is because pregnancy-related leave should not put employees at a disadvantage. It’s unlawful to discriminate against employees because they take more time off on sick leave during pregnancy.

So, make sure you don’t penalise employees who take more time off when they are pregnant.

Workplaces might have different rules and reporting systems for employee absence. For example, when employees reach a certain number of absences, they may trigger a written or formal warning.

Employees who need to take time off sick when pregnant should not be subject to these same conditions.

Sickness in the later stages of pregnancy

If employees take pregnancy-related sick leave in the four weeks leading up to their due date, then their maternity leave will start immediately.

You would then need to start paying the employee maternity pay from this date. In some cases, the employer and employee can agree to delay the beginning of maternity leave.

Support for employees during pregnancy

Our Employee Assistance Programme provides guidance and supports your employees during pregnancy and with their mental health in the workplace and in life.

We can help you create a safe, productive workspace that supports all.

We support employees mental wellbeing with any problems they might be facing in their professional or personal lives with our 24-hour counselling helpline.

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Pregnancy sick leave pay

You must pay employees on pregnancy-related sickness absence the same amount as they would be paid for normal sickness absence.

You must pay employees contractual sick pay if your organisation offers it in the contract of employment. If you pay employees Statutory Sick Pay when they are off ill, you must pay this for a pregnancy-related illness in the same way.

If employees have exceeded their contractual sick pay entitlement, you should then offer Statutory Sick Pay.

Statutory Sick Pay is £96.35 per week. If employees are too ill to work, you must pay this as the minimum amount. However, employers can choose to offer more. Employees should receive up to 28 weeks of statutory sick pay.

In April 2022, SSP is increasing to £99.35 per week.

You must pay employees sick pay if they are off work for at least four days. Whilst employees are off work sick, they will still build up their holiday entitlement.

Making reasonable adjustments for pregnant workers

Pregnancy can be a time of change in employee's lives. Employers should make reasonable adjustments for pregnant workers if needed.

It’s a good idea to do a risk assessment with employees when they inform you that they are pregnant.

Here are adjustments you can offer pregnant employees to support their mental and physical wellbeing:

  • Flexible working hours.
  • Working from home.
  • Managing employee workload.
  • Extra breaks.

If the job involves heavy lifting, carrying, or standing for long periods, the employer should reduce the risk. If you can’t remove the risks, you should offer alternative work options or suspend the employee on full pay.

It’s a good idea to arrange a meeting with pregnant workers to understand their worries or concerns. This way you can agree on the adjustments that might need to happen.

Employees are also entitled to time off to attend antenatal appointments during their pregnancy.

Most employees will need between seven and ten pregnancy-related appointments.

These appointments can include:

  • Medical appointments.
  • Sessions that support the employee’s wellbeing.
  • Pregnancy-related health and fitness classes.

Pregnancy discrimination

Treating an employee unfairly for pregnancy-related sickness absence is illegal. As an employer, you must protect employees from pregnancy discrimination of all kinds.

Employers must not discriminate against someone because of:

  • Their pregnancy.
  • Maternity leave plans.
  • An illness related to their pregnancy.

Examples of unfair treatment could include:

  • Disciplinary action.
  • Dismissal.
  • Asking them to work while on maternity leave.
  • Not offering them a job.
  • Redundancy.

If an employee raises a claim of pregnancy discrimination, it can lead to employment tribunals and costly fines. Your organisation could ruin its reputation and see good employees leave.

The law covers employees until:

  • They come back to work.
  • Leave the job.
  • Their maternity leave ends.

As an employer, understanding the rules around pregnancy-related illnesses is essential. You must offer sick leave to pregnant employees when required.

Get help with pregnancy-related sick leave from Health Assured

If you’ve got any questions on pregnancy-related sick leave, then Health Assured can help.

Our team of legal advisors and experts are well equipped to assist with your questions. The helpline is open 24/7 hours a day 365 days a year. So, you can get in touch whenever you need us.

We’re also on hand to support expecting parents manage their work-home life. Having a baby can be a stressful time for our employees. Our team of experienced counsellors are on hand to help.

For guidance on sick leave due to pregnancy, contact us today. Or arrange a call back from a workplace wellbeing expert today on 0844 891 0352

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