25 June, 2009


Pregnancy, Work and Your Rights

pregnant woman holding her stomach

Serving and Pregnant?
As a serving person all employment law or provision equating to statutory arrangements applies to you but because of the special circumstances of Navy life the Ministry of Defence has put together Defence Council Instructions, Joint Service 99 2004, (Maternity Arrangements for Servicewomen in the Regular Forces). This DCI contains all the detailed provisions, procedures and supporting information. Additional information can be found in the following DCIs:

  • DCI JS 99 2004 (Maternity Arrangements for Servicewomen in the Regular Forces)
  • DCI JS 77 2004 (New Maternity Arrangements for Servicewomen in the Reserve Forces)
  • DCI JS 41 2003 and amendment DCI JS 61 2004 (Paternity Leave - Service Personnel)

husband with hand on pregnant wifes stomach

Things to do when you confirm that you are pregnant...

  • Go to the Maternity Section within the UPO and in addition to getting up to date advice, collect your Maternity Pack
  • Inform your Commanding Officer - although DCI JS 99 2004 states that you must do this by the 15th week before the expected week of confinement, it is wise to advise your CO and the MO at the earliest possible date in order that your baby's health is not put at risk. An assessment of the risks will be made and adjustments to your duties may be required.
  • Look carefully at the information in the Maternity Pack and DCI JS 99 2004 and give some active thought to the life style plans you want for your family.

Where you and your partner are both serving it may be useful to look at DCI RN43 2003, Sea Service Liability for Service Couples with Dependant Children. Irrespective of your marital status this DCI explains the appointing/drafting rules to help and manage your family responsibilities and Service commitments.

All Serving people - not just couples with dependant children - have the facility to have their individual circumstances taken into consideration by the deploying authorities in cases likely to cause significant hardship. Applications must be submitted on a Drafting Preference Form, or for Topmast Squads, by Request Form to the Commanding Officer.

  • DCI RN43 2003 (Sea Service Liability for Service Couples with Dependant Children)

The BBC has produced a user friendly but comprehensive web page under a section entitled Pregnancy at Work these pages cover the full range of rights including Maternity Leave and Paternity Leave.

For information on these topics...

website Web site: BBC Parenting

Statutory Maternity Leave - Your Rights...
In most circumstances, if you are employed when you fall pregnant you will be entitled to at least 18 weeks ordinary paid maternity leave with the right to return to your job. The hours you work, or the amount of time you have worked should not affect your maternity rights. Additionally if you have been with your current employer for more than a year by the time your baby is due, you will also be entitled to additional paid maternity leave of up to 29 weeks after the birth of your baby.

pregnant woman with red label

Working environment
During pregnancy your work must not put your or your baby's health at risk. Your employer should carry out an assessment of the risks and adjust your hours or conditions if needed. You should be offered a suitable alternative job if it can't be made safe, or else be suspended on full pay.

At one time many people worried about using computers or visual display units (VDUs) while pregnant, but research that has been carried out shows no links between VDUs and any specific health problems for babies.

However you should be particularly careful if you come into contact with the following at work:

  • Industrial chemicals, such as lead and arsenic
  • Many types of paints or varnishes
  • Soldering or work involving rubber
  • Anaesthetic gases (which may cause early miscarriage)
  • Dry cleaning fluids

If you work in a potentially hazardous environment, talk to your health and safety officer or union representative about the possibility of altering your job or using extra protection while trying for your baby or when you're pregnant. This can be just as important a consideration for men as for women, as some chemicals can affect sperm production. If in doubt, ask your doctor for advice.

Deciding to return to work
For many women, the question of whether or not to return to work after having a child is a difficult one. You may decide that you want to go back for financial reasons, or it may be because you want the adult stimulation and social contact work can offer. Returning to work after taking maternity leave can be tough. You have all the hassles of getting back into workplace routines, picking up changes in practice and policy, catching up with all the office politics and rivalry that often exists, all whilst having to come to terms with leaving your baby at home after three months together.

clocks, time

When to return
You do not necessarily have to give your employer notice before you return to work after ordinary maternity leave, and you should be able to simply return to the job you left. If you have taken additional maternity leave, you need to write to your employer 21 days prior to your planned return, giving notice of the date that you intend to go back.


Can I have my old job back?
When you go back, your employer must let you return to the same job that you were doing before. If this is not reasonably possible, your employers must offer you a reasonable alternative with the same status, terms and conditions, and the same type of work that you had before.

child on computer

Do I have to go back full time and what are my options regarding childcare when I return to work?
If you need to change your working routine after becoming a parent, you must discuss your situation and needs with your employer. Your employer is duty bound to consider your request seriously. In fact UK law states your employers must demonstrate good reason for declining your request, and provide an explanation in writing.

Choosing who will care for your child when you return to work is a major decision. Some employers offer a crèche so that you can take your baby to work with you, but unfortunately, these are still few and far between. The majority of working women have to arrange their own childcare.

info More Information: Childcare - Making a Choice

info More Information: Parenting - Parenting Babies

info More Information: Parenting - Dealing with the Stress of Parenthood

info More Information: Coping with the Work-Home Balance

website Web site: Parentline Plus

website Web site: National Family & Parenting Institute

Parental leave...Who is entitled to take parental leave? Do I get paid? Does it come out of my leave entitlement?
In order to take parental leave you need to have at least one year's continuous service, although service with a previous employer can count. You also need to be the parent, natural or adoptive, of a child who was under the age of 5 on 15 December 1999, or who was born or adopted after this date. Parental leave applies to both mothers and fathers.

The law does not require employers to pay employees on leave, although some employers may improve on the legal minimum by offering paid leave. The employment contract continues during an absence on parental leave, unless the employer or employee terminates it. This means that an employee continues to benefit from his or her statutory employment rights during parental leave.

A period of absence on parental leave does not affect entitlement to paid annual leave. The continuation of other terms and conditions during parental leave, such as access to a company car or mobile phone, and perks such as health club membership, remain a contractual matter between the employer and employee.

husband and wife holding baby

How much parental leave can be taken at once?
Some organisations have set up their own rules for the taking of parental leave. In the absence of these, the maximum amount of leave that may be taken at any one time is four weeks. The minimum amount of leave that can be taken at one time is a week, unless the child is disabled. Both parents are entitled to take parental leave, although your employer may request that you do not take the leave at the same time. You need to give at least 21 days' notice of your intention to take parental leave. This should be in writing stating when you intend your parental leave to start and how long you intend to take.

If you are a father and want to take parental leave around the time of your child's birth, you need to give your employer 21 days' notice before the beginning of the expected week of childbirth and specify the expected week of childbirth and how long you expect the leave to last. Adoptive parents should specify the week of the placement and again, give notice of their intention to take leave at least 21 days' before the placement is due to start and specify how long they intend to take off.

For more detailed information contact the Department of Trade and Industry:

  • DCI JS 79 2002 For Service Families (Parental leave - Amendments to Rules)

website Web site: Department of Trade & Industry

Citizens' Advice Bureau logo

Citizens Advice Bureau... Parental rights at work
This is vast resource providing highly detailed impartial and invaluable advice on Parental rights at work. This information, checked regularly and updated, applies to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

website Web site: Citizens Advice Bureau - Parents Rights at Work

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