Legal

Should you tell your boss if you fall pregnant while on furlough?

28 Jul 2021 By Kerry Hudson

Women who fail to notify their employer about their pregnancy could be jeopardising their rights, says Kerry Hudson

There is a risk that mothers-to-be on furlough may be tempted not to notify their employers of their pregnancy. This may be because they think they might receive more money on furlough or, if they are worried about redundancies, they fear they may be discriminated against. Or they simply believe they do not have to tell their employers that they are pregnant.  

However, keeping quiet could not only compromise the individual’s position, which would otherwise have been protected, but they could also be at risk of not being able to access all their entitlements. 

Pregnant employees need not be concerned about revealing their pregnancy as they have several safeguards under legislation that can help protect their position. These include:

  • The Equality Act 2010, which prohibits discrimination against employees because of the ‘protected characteristic’ of pregnancy and maternity during the ‘protected period’.

  • Employment Rights Act 1996, which sets out rights to health and safety, time off for antenatal care, maternity leave and unfair dismissal. 

  • Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations 1999, which set out a woman’s entitlement to maternity leave and the notification requirements. 

Legally, employees are obliged to notify their employer that they are pregnant 15 weeks before their due date. At this point, the employee can tell their employer when they wish to stop work to have a baby and the day they want their statutory maternity to start. 

Cases of employers being unsupportive or uncooperative with employees who are mums-to-be have thankfully become few and far between. 

Once an individual informs their employer they are pregnant, that employee is then protected against unfavourable treatment because of pregnancy-related discrimination. If informing an employer by the deadline is not possible for reasons such as the person was unaware of their pregnancy, then the employer must be informed as soon as possible. 

Once told of their employee’s pregnancy, an employer will be required to carry out a workplace assessment to ensure it is safe enough for them to work in when returning from furlough. 

Under current legislation it is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of pregnancy, so by failing to inform an employer, employees are doing themselves a huge disservice as they’re essentially relinquishing their right to be protected under the legislation. 

Employees who tell an employer about their pregnancy are actually more protected than their co-workers as they have enhanced rights when it comes to selection criteria for redundancy.

Kerry Hudson is head of employment at Brindley Twist Tafft & James

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