Dealing with pregnancy-related sickness

The following Employment practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Dealing with pregnancy-related sickness
  • Initial considerations
  • Application of usual sickness policy and procedure in case of pregnancy-related sickness
  • Triggering the start of maternity leave
  • Risk assessments and duty to offer suitable alternative work
  • Suspension on maternity grounds

Dealing with pregnancy-related sickness

This Practice Note examines the employment law and practical issues an employer will need to consider when dealing with pregnancy-related sickness.

An employee who is pregnant may take time off sick, either due to a pregnancy-related sickness or due to illness unconnected to the pregnancy.

As a separate issue, an employer is under various duties as regards protection of the health of the woman and her baby if risks to her health from the workplace are identified by a risk assessment—these are also covered in this Practice Note.

Initial considerations

In principle, pregnancy-related absences should be treated in the same way as any other genuine sickness absence but:

  1. the employee should not be disciplined (or dismissed) for taking sickness absence due to pregnancy (as opposed to being sick for some other reason) as that could amount to direct discrimination, and the employee should be paid sick pay in the normal way, subject to the employer’s normal rules on self-certification or GP certificates. For further guidance, see Practice Note: Detriment or dismissal on grounds of pregnancy, childbirth or maternity leave

  2. if the sickness absence is long-term (ie not just the occasional day but for a long, continuous period) the employer may wish to consider asking the employee’s GP (or consultant) for a report confirming the specific health problem(s). As health information amounts to special category

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