9-to-5 plus one

Want to work through your pregnancy feeling serene, not stressed? We can’t clear your in-tray, but we can help you get the support and advice you need

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Early days
If you’ve just found out you are pregnant, chances are you’re having a hard time keeping the news from work colleagues and wondering when to tell your boss.
Hiding your energy slumps and queasy moments can require the skills of a Hollywood actress, but many women still opt not to spill the beans until after 12 weeks, when the risk of miscarriage falls. If, however, you do a job that’s very physical, involves risks you’re worried could harm your baby, or you simply can’t hide symptoms such as morning sickness, then you might feel you need to speak to your boss earlier.

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Telling your employer

  • Choose a good moment to tell your boss – not when they’re racing to a meeting.
  • Ask to see them in private so you don’t have to discuss any concerns in front of other people.
  • If you don’t already have a copy, ask them for your company’s maternity policy. Although there are certain things your company is legally required to do for you (see right), they may also offer additional benefits.
  • Don’t feel upset if, after congratulating you on your news, they want to talk through a few practical issues. Although you probably want to jump for joy and start discussing baby clothes, remember they’ll have to start thinking about how to cover your post while you’re off.    

What can my boss do for me?
Now that you’re pregnant, here’s what you’re entitled to:

  • You cannot be legally dismissed if you are pregnant, or for reasons connected with your pregnancy or maternity leave.
  • You should be offered the same training and promotion opportunities as other staff in the company while you’re pregnant.
  • Your employer needs to carry out a health and safety risk assessment to check you and your baby are protected from risks to your health.
  • You’re allowed paid time off to attend antenatal classes.
  • All employed women are entitled to 39 weeks’ Ordinary Maternity Leave – even if you’re a new member of staff, or were already pregnant when you began your job.
  • During your maternity leave, you will be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay – paid by your employer – or, depending on your earnings, Maternity Allowance, paid by Social Security. Statutory Maternity Pay is 90% of your average earnings for six weeks, and £108.85 per week for another 33 weeks, or 90% of your average earnings if it is less. Maternity Allowance is £108.85 a week for 39 weeks, or 90% of your average earnings if that is less.
  • You need to tell your employer when you intend to start maternity leave by approximately week 26 of your pregnancy.

For more details and help, contact the Equal Opportunities Commission helpline on 0845 601 5901 or visit their website at www.eoc.org.uk. You can also call Working Families for free legal advice on 0800 013 0313 or for more information, visit www.workingfamilies.org.uk.

Making it through the day
Don’t be afraid to make some practical changes to the way you work to help you and your baby avoid getting stressed out. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Keep a bottle of water and some healthy snacks to hand so you stay well-fed and hydrated.
  • Take your full lunch hour and use it to relax or even have a lie down.
  • Speak up if you feel stressed or overloaded. Don’t suffer in silence.
  • Ask if you can work from home on some days.
  • Don’t skip lunch hours, work late, or take work home with you.
  • Investigate if you can change your working hours a little, so you don’t have to travel at peak times when you’re heavily pregnant.

Here are some questions that you may want to ask your company’s HR department.

  1. Questions about my safety at work:
  2. My workload/role:
  3. My hours/my journey to work:
  4. My maternity leave:
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Add anything else that you can think of to this list and keep them handy so that you can find them when you need it.

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