Financial & Legal News

Maternity Leave Issues for Employers

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Maternity leave can give rise to a number of issues for employers. In this blog, we deal with pregnant workers' rights and recent Acas guidance to support parents of sick or premature babies.

Pregnant employees' protection may start before the employer knows of the pregnancy

Protection for pregnant workers may arise before they inform their employer of their pregnancy.

This issue was raised in a recent – and lengthy - Advocate General's Opinion published for the benefit of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Whilst it is not necessary to go into the detail, employers should bear in mind the possibility that an employee's protection under the Pregnant Worker's Directive (PWD) could be engaged even before the worker informs them of their pregnancy.

The Attorney General's opinion that the PWD protects employees from the moment they become pregnant appears to be contrary to Article 2 (a) of the PWD and is (as the Advocate General acknowledged), somewhat unfair to employers.

The full judgment of the ECJ on the issues is awaited but in the meantime, employers are advised:

  • to be additionally cautious if considering dismissing or making redundant women with less than 2 years length of service; and
  • to take legal advice, if unsure of the employee's right, before proceeding with dismissal/redundancy.

Acas introduce workplace support for parents with premature or sick babies

Organising maternity leave is now a relatively straightforward exercise for both employers and employees. But what happens when a child is born prematurely or is sick? The parents inevitably need more time-off to care for the child and deal with the hospital visits. This is a worrying time for employees – and can be a concern for employers too.

Recognising the issues that can arise, ACAS have published guidance for workplace support for parents with premature or sick babies: Workplace support for parents with premature or sick babies. The guidance:

  • explains what premature birth means;
  • considers employee responsibilities including obtaining the MAT B1 certificate which evidences pregnancy and birth to allow the payment of Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance;
  • encourages the sensitive support by the employer of parents after the birth – for the father as well as the mother;
  • advises on what should happen if the baby dies: reminding employers that parents are still entitled to Maternity and Parental Leave;
  • outlines how to support the parent on their return to work; and
  • explains how to deal with the additional appointments that might be necessary following the discharge from hospital.

How can we help?

Unfortunately, dealing with premature or sick babies is a relatively common difficulty for employees: ACAS report that over 95,000 such babies are born every year. We can help employers deal with each individual situation sensitively and proactively. We also help employees understand their rights to ensure that they get through a difficult time in their private lives. Get in touch and we will talk through the issues with you.


For more information or discuss any issues you might have about maternity or parental leave, contact Susan Mayall on 0161 684 6948 or make an enquiry.

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

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