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How Redundancy Affects Pregnant Women

By: Emma Eilbeck BA (hons) - Updated: 19 Aug 2011 | comments*Discuss
 
Pregnant Women Employer Redundancy

As the harsh economic climate takes hold, employers are under pressure to make cuts and there are fears that pregnant women are being seen as easy targets.

Are Pregnant Women Easy Targets?

Charity group Maternity Action estimates that before the credit crunch some 30,000 women every year lost their jobs as a result of becoming pregnant.

If the tough economic conditions are then taken into account it is likely that this number is even higher. It is hard to pinpoint exactly how many women are made redundant as a result of their pregnancy because not all women come forward and tell someone or can prove their pregnancy was the reason.

There is a myth that employers cannot make pregnant women redundant, but this is not the case. There are however rules governing how an employer must treat you.

Examples of Unfair Treatment

The Alliance Against Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace, says it has seen an increase in the number of pregnant women and new mothers phoning its helpline. It believes some employers are using the recession as an excuse when it comes to making pregnant women redundant.

Some of the most common scenarios where an employer has acted unlawfully include.

  • Employers giving pregnant women no reason why they were selected for redundancy, or giving reasons that suggest it was to do with their pregnancy.
  • Women not being offered alternative employment if it is available.
  • Women being dismissed on the day or within the same week of telling their employer they are pregnant.
  • There are also instances of discrimination when women want to return to work, with employers refusing to be adaptable or allowing them to work part-time when this is workable.

What the Law Says

The law states that employees must not be dismissed or disadvantaged in their workplace because they are pregnant.

Employers will need to offer a suitable alternative job if one is available and employers must:

  • Consult you in the same way as others about your redundancy.
  • Follow a fair selection process and not dismiss you for reasons related to your pregnancy in any way.
  • Allow you to return to the same job once your maternity leave is over.
  • Treat part-time workers the same as full-time worker.

What You Are Entitled to

If you are unlucky enough to be made redundant by your employer when pregnant you should still qualify for your statutory maternity pay during the redundancy. In order to claim this you will need to have worked for your employer for 26 weeks when it comes to the end of the fifteenth week before the week you are due to give birth.

You will also need to:

  • Be employed in all or part of the week before your baby is due, and earn at least £102 a week in the eight weeks or two months before the end of your qualifying week.
If none of the above applies to you, you may still be able to claim maternity allowance for the 36 weeks from the Job Centre and will need to ask your employer for a SMP1 form.

You will be able to make a claim for maternity allowance if you were made redundant and stopped being employed after your qualifying week but before you start your maternity leave.

In order to claim SMP you must also give your employer 28 days notice of the date you want to start your pay. You must also give them a copy of your Maternity Certificate stating your expected week of childbirth which you will be able to get from your midwife when you are about 20 weeks pregnant.

If you are made redundant in or after your qualifying week it is likely that you will still get SMP as long as you have met the conditions above.

Telling Your Employer

Many women feel scared to tell their employer when they become pregnant for fear of unfair treatment. But most employers will specify that you tell them three months into your pregnancy. If further down the line you wish to challenge your redundancy you will need to prove that your employer knew about your situation, you do not want them finding out through the office gossip. Most employers will be understanding about your pregnancy but most will also not allow you to take time off work for anything related with your pregnancy, unless you have booked this off.

Being made redundant at one of the most stressful times in your life is never going to be easy, but it is still important to maintain a level of perspective and not necessarily take the view that you have been made redundant because of your pregnancy and let your employer first give you an explanation.

Where to go for Further Advice

If you feel you have been unfairly dismissed or fear that your employer is considering this, there are a number of places you can get free advice, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau. There are also a number of charitable organisations you can contact, such as Maternity Action, Working Families, and Gingerbread –single parents, equal families.

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