I am pregnant and unable to work. What help is available?

If you are employed and need to take maternity leave to have your baby, you may be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) for 39 weeks. You will qualify if all of the following apply:

  • You were employed on the 15th week before the due date.
  • You were continuously employed by the same employer for the 26 weeks (six months) leading up to that week.
  • You earned at least £113 per week gross (just under 16 hours at minimum wage).

This is the statutory minimum. It may be that you are entitled to more under your contract, so make sure to check it or ask your employer.

If you do not satisfy the requirements listed above, you may instead be entitled to Maternity Allowance. This is usually paid by the state for 39 weeks, and you will be entitled if all of the following apply:

  • You were employed (including for multiple employers) or self-employed for a total of 26 out of the 66 weeks before your due date (even if there are gaps).
  • You earned at least £30 a week in at least 13 of those weeks.
  • You are not entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay.

Note that if you were self-employed and did not pay Class 2 National Insurance payments, then you will be paid Maternity Allowance at a much lower rate. Maternity Allowance is also available (at the lower rate, for 14 weeks only) if you do unpaid work for your self-employed spouse or civil partner.

If you cannot receive either of the above (or only at a low rate), you are likely to be entitled to Income Support from 11 weeks before your due date (or earlier if your pregnancy makes you incapable of working) until 15 weeks after birth. If you are a lone parent you will continue to be entitled while your child is young (see below). If you meet certain conditions, you may be directed to apply for Universal Credit instead (see below).

You can apply for a Sure Start Maternity Grant if you receive certain benefits (means-tested JSA or ESA, Income Support, Pension Credit, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit with a disability element, or Universal Credit). The new baby must usually be your only child under 16 (unless it is a multiple birth), and you must apply within three months of the birth. You will need to get a health professional to provide a statement confirming the due date / date of birth.

What holiday pay am I entitled to?

From 1 April 2009, the statutory amount of paid holiday you are entitled to in each leave year is 5.6 weeks. If you work works five days a week, 5.6 weeks means 28 days’ holiday (5.6 weeks x 5 days per week). If you work more than five days a week, your statutory paid holiday is capped or limited to 28 days. If you work fewer than five days, your statutory amount of days is calculated on a pro-rata basis. If you start or leave your employment part way through a leave year your holiday entitlement will be calculated on a pro-rata basis.

If you get time off on Bank holidays and get paid for them then these count towards your entitlement – but check your employment contract. Your statutory entitlement to paid holiday is not in addition to any contractual entitlement. It is the minimum amount that you should have.

Remember to check your contract, it may give you contractual holiday over and above the statutory amount.

Am I entitled to the national minimum wage?

Yes – everyone is entitled to the minimum wage – if you have an issue you should call the Pay and Work Rights helpline on 0800 917 2368. They can help you work out if you are being paid enough. If you are not getting the correct money they can help you get what you are owed.

If your employer isn’t paying you enough they can be fined as well as having to pay you what they owe, backdated for up to six years.

Am I eligible for parental leave?

To qualify for parental leave, you must:

a)      have been employed continually by the same employer for one year when parental leave is taken; and

b)     have responsibility for a child under five (or under 18 if the child is disabled); and

c)      take leave for the purpose of caring for the child. Both parents can take unpaid parental leave. Each parent can take up to 13 weeks for each child (18 weeks if the child is disabled), and can take this leave at different times from one another. Most working parents are entitled to at least 13 weeks’ unpaid leave.

If you have one year’s continuous service you will be eligible for parental leave if:

a)      you are the parent (named on the birth certificate) of a child under five (or under 18 if the child is disabled) born on or after 15 December 1999; or

b)     a child under 18 has been placed for adoption with you on or after 15 December 1999, or

c)      you have acquired legally recognised parental responsibility for a child under five (or 18 if the child is disabled) born on or after 15 December 1999. If parental responsibility is acquired during the first five years of a child’s life, the parent can take parental leave from this.

Do I have rights to maternity leave?

Since 1 April 2007, pregnant employees are entitled to a total of 52 weeks’ maternity leave made up of 26 weeks’ ordinary maternity leave (OML) followed immediately by 26 weeks additional maternity leave (AML).
The only employees who don’t have this right are:

self-employed women

policewomen (but not civilian employees and are members of the armed forces)

share fisherwomen

women normally employed abroad (unless they have a work connection with the UK)

You can choose when your maternity leave starts provided that it is not earlier than the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC) and that you are not absent for a pregnancy-related reason in the four weeks before the EWC

I am suffering discrimination because of my sex/race/disability in the workplace, can I get help?

There are laws against discrimination to protect employees. Discrimination can come from anywhere. It could be a colleague, department supervisor, your manager or your employer.
If you think you are being treated less favourably than others, you should take action as quickly as possible. The first thing to do is to have a word with other colleagues to see if they are receiving similar treatment or if they have noticed your less favourable treatment.
Find out if anyone is willing to stand by you. If you can, try to speak personally to the person discriminating against you and ask them to stop or warn them that you will complain officially. You should only do this if you feel it is safe. You may find it helpful to have a colleague or trade union representative with you when you do this.
You should tell your manager what is happening. Put it in writing and keep a copy. Your employer is required by law to protect you from discrimination. If it is your manager who is discriminating against you or harassing you, tell someone higher up in the organisation.
You should also collect evidence. This could include keeping a diary or record of the time, date and location of any incidents, what was said or done, who was involved, if there were any witnesses and evidence of any similar incidents against other colleagues. Record the names and jobs of those you think are treated more favourably than you, or details of the rule or policy that puts you at a disadvantage and why.
If things do not improve, talk to your union if you are a member or to your personnel department. They might be able to help you stop the discrimination.
If none of this helps, you may need to raise a written grievance with your employer. Although the law can help protect you, you should be aware that if you make a formal complaint, there is a risk of this making your life at work even more uncomfortable.
If this doesn’t work, the final step could be to make a claim for sex discrimination to an Industrial Tribunal. You may need to raise a written grievance with your employer first. There are strict time limits involved, so get advice early on. A claim to an employment tribunal must be made within three months (that is three months less one day) from the date of the discriminatory act that is being complained about

You don’t need to have worked for your employer for any particular length of time before you can make a claim for sex discrimination. If you have been dismissed, you may also be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal.
You will need to prove your case. This is why collecting evidence is so important. You can ask your employer to provide information through a questionnaire procedure. This can help to support your case. There are strict time limits involved and you will need to get advice to help you do this.
There is no upper limit to the amount of compensation you can be awarded by an employment tribunal in a sex discrimination case.

Can I ask for flexible working?

You can ask but to find out of you have the statutory right to request flexible working go to www.direct.gov.uk/Employment/

Can an agency charge me a fee for finding work?

An employment agency can not charge you a fee for finding or trying to find you a job. They can charge for non-work finding services such as C.V. writing but they can not make you use these services as a condition of finding you work.

Note there are different rules for entertainment/modelling agencies. Further information for agency workers can be found at www.direct.gov.uk/Employment/

How do I check my redundancy pay?

You can use an interactive tool to check your redundancy payment. Go to www.direct.gov.uk/redundancy.dsb

What is the Minimum Wage

Employers have to ensure they meet the requirements of the Minimum Wage Act 1998. The actual amount varies according to age and increases, usually annually. To get the latest minimum wage figures go to www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/Employees/Pay/DG_10027201

Can my employer make deductions from my wages?

If required by the employees contract or by law (eg National Insurance), deductions can be made without prior written agreement. However, employers should not make other deductions without a prior written agreement. Seek further advice relating to the retail trade and deductions to recover stock deficiencies/cash shortages.

What about bank holidays?

There is no statutory entitlement to paid leave for public holidays. You should refer to your contract of employment.

If it is not expressly stated in the contract, the right to paid leave may have built up through custom and practice.

Paid public holidays can count towards part of the statutory 5.6 weeks paid holiday under the Working Time Regulations 1999(as amended).

What if an employee starts after the beginning of the company’s leave year?

Holiday entitlement will be calculated from the first day of employment to the end of the leave year. So, if the leave year runs from April to March and you start in July, you will be entitled to three quarters of the full entitlement.

How is a part time worker’s holiday calculated?

On a pro-rata basis, so an employee who works 3 days per week would get 16.8 days paid holiday – their normal working week multiplied by 5.6.

What paid holiday am I entitled to?

Most workers who work a 5-day week must receive at least 28 days’ paid annual leave per year  – ie 5.6 weeks paid holiday.

You are also entitled to payment for untaken statutory leave entitlement on termination of employment.
To work out your holiday entitlement try this tool