Pregnancy related absence
Under the Equality Act (2010) pregnant employees have special protections in the workplace against all discrimination.
- Pregnant employees are covered by a ‘protected period’ which starts from the beginning of pregnancy and ends at the expiry of the maternity leave period or, when the employee returns to work, whichever is sooner
- Pregnant employees are protected against less favourable treatment on grounds of pregnancy-related illness
- There will be no discrimination on grounds of pregnancy if the manager is not aware of the pregnancy
- Any absences related to pregnancy included in any assessment of the employee’s sickness record which leads to detrimental treatment, for example non-selection for a promoted post, disciplinary action, dismissal, redundancy or, demotion will be vulnerable to a claim of sex discrimination
Therefore, you should ensure any absence as a result of pregnancy-related illness that occur between the beginning of pregnancy until the end of maternity leave, is recorded as pregnancy-related sickness absence. It is appropriate to record this separately from other absences.
You should not count pregnancy-related sickness absence for the purposes of assessing Trigger Points in which to conduct a Formal Absence Review Meeting or, in undertaking formal processes under the Attendance Management Policy. In most cases, formal action including dismissal is likely to be unlawful. However, Return to Work Discussions should still be held with the employee and if required a formal discussion with the employee regarding any support required.
In cases where persistent frequent and/or continuous or, repeated long term absence due to pregnancy-related absence is becoming intolerable for your department to support, you must seek HR advice on the best way forward by contacting HR Support and Advice Unit.
An employee who is absent due to a pregnancy-related illness during the four weeks period prior to her expected week of childbirth can be required to start her maternity leave early, and will be entitled to maternity pay and not sick pay. Odd days of pregnancy-related illness during this period may be disregarded if the employee wishes to defer the start of her maternity leave period and a risk assessment does not indicate that carrying out work will endanger her pregnancy.