Q: I’ve just found out I’m five months pregnant but am due to start a new job. Should I tell my new employer and can they dismiss me within my probationary period as a result?
A: Legally, you don’t have to tell your employer until you give notice for maternity leave in the 15th week before your baby is due, but it’s often better to do so earlier.
The law is pretty hot on pregnancy in the workplace, and although it’s not ideal to start a new job pregnant, it would be sexual discrimination if your employer used it against you to dismiss you within the probationary period.
Also, the sooner you tell them, the sooner you can get the benefits you’re entitled to, such as workplace assessments and time off for antenatal appointments.
However, if you start a job when pregnant, you’ll find you are not eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) – to qualify you need to satisfy the ‘continuous employment’ rule.
This means you have to have been employed for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks before the qualifying week, which is the 15th week before your baby is due to be born.
If you don’t qualify for SMP, you may get Maternity Allowance instead.
You’d still be eligible for Ordinary Maternity leave (OML), though, which lasts for 26 weeks, as it doesn’t matter how many hours you work, or how long you’ve been in your job.
You are entitled to this from the first day in a new job and it can start from the 11th week before your baby is due.
You are also now entitled to 26 weeks Additional Maternity Leave, which makes it one year in total. You can take this regardless of how long you’ve been with your employer and this starts at the end of your OML.