Maternity law: Know your rights

Nikki has been a practising midwife for over twenty years. She is also a practising Clinical Negligence Solicitor with a special interest in Maternity Rights and Benefits and Maternal and Birth Injuries. Nikki is the Expert Midwife for a parenting magazine, and for products such as Dettol, Infacol and Sudocrem. She is a Certified Infant Massage Instructor specialising in anti-colic and developmental massage and runs her own antenatal and Baby Massage classes. Nikki’s paramount concern is to ensure that women have all the updated information available on maternity rights and maternity care, enabling them to make informed choices.

For individual advice you can contact Nikki direct at:
Speak to me on 0905 620 1270, £1.00/min from a BT landline; calls from mobiles and other networks may vary

Maternity Law – know your rights
Would you know your maternity rights in the work place? Are you aware of the additional paternity leave that your husband/partner is now eligible for? Read on and find your answers.

My husband and I are adopting twin baby boys. Am I eligible for any leave from my place of work?

Yes, if you have worked continuously for the same employer for 26 weeks’  leading into the week your employer is notified of the adoption match, which must be no more than seven days after you have been notified of the adoption match. You must also tell your employer the date you expect the children to be placed with you and therefore the date you want your statutory adoption leave to start.
Adoptive parents are entitled to up to 52 weeks’ adoption leave. This includes 26 weeks’ ordinary adoption leave followed by 26 weeks’ additional adoption leave. When a couple adopt a child, only one parent is entitled to take adoption leave. The other parent may take paternity leave and if the mother has returned to work, the other parent can take Additional Paternity Leave.
Since 3 April 2011 your partner may qualify for Additional Paternity Leave (APL). This is also the case if adopting a child from overseas and the child enters the UK on or after 3 April 2011. APL is for a maximum of 26 weeks and can be taken between 20 weeks and one year after your child is placed with you for adoption.
Most adopting parents are entitled to Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) on a similar basis to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). This is payable for 39 weeks and is the same as the lower rate of SMP. If your average weekly earnings are below the lower earnings limit you may not qualify for SAP, which is presently paid at £128.73 a week, or 90 % of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

My wife is pregnant and is going back to work early after the baby. I know I am eligible for paternity leave but am I eligible for additional paternity leave?

Basic statutory paternity leave is for two weeks and starts from either:-
• The date your baby is born or during the weeks following the birth but within 56 days of your baby’s birthday;
•  If your baby is premature, leave must be completed within the period from the actual date of birth up to 56 days after the first day of the expected week of birth
Additional Paternity Leave (APL)
Since 3 April 2011, you may qualify for APL if you have been with your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before your baby’s due date. It can be taken between 20 weeks and one year after your child’s birthday. APL cannot be taken until 8 weeks after the date you gave your employer notice.
APL will be for a period of up to 26 weeks following mum’s return to work and must be taken in multiples of complete weeks, as one continuous period and for a minimum of two weeks.
To qualify you must take the time off to care for the child and your wife must have been entitled to one or more of the following – Statutory Maternity Leave, Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance and she must have started working again so that this pay has stopped. You do have the right to unpaid APL if you meet the eligibility criteria for leave but not pay.
Additional Statutory Paternity Pay (ASPP)
You may be eligible for ASPP if your wife starts work again, with at least two weeks of the 39 week payment period remaining and you must also have taken or be taking APL, giving mothers the right to transfer
a proportion of their paid leave to their partner.

I am 15 weeks pregnant and work in an office. I have told my employer that I am pregnant and he has informed me that I need a risk assessment. What is this?

Once informed you are pregnant, your employer has a legal obligation to ensure that the kind of work you do and your working conditions will not put you or your baby at risk. A risk assessment is carried out assessing your situation and removing or reducing any risks identified. If this is not feasible, your working hours may need altering or your employer may offer you a suitable alternative job on full pay for as long as necessary to avoid the potential risks. If you refuse alternative work, you lose the right to full pay during your suspension.
In an office environment the assessed risks may be your workstation, workload and working hours. The risk assessment is repeated throughout your pregnancy, as risks can become prevalent later in pregnancy.