Can my employer withhold sick pay for pregnancy-related illness?

I have had four periods of sickness, three of them related to pregnancy. Payroll are stating they can legally count my other three absences to trigger my fourth to pay no company sick pay even if they are pregnancy related. They said they don’t count towards disciplinary purposes etc, but they do for this. I’m £160 short on wages due to this now. Is this correct?

Woman with a headache


No. If the illness is pregnancy-related it should be recorded as such. It should not count towards your usual sickness record. (apart from the last four weeks of pregnancy) –   if you are off sick with a pregnancy-related illness in the last four weeks before your expected week of childbirth your employer can start your maternity leave automatically.

If you have seen your GP or midwife, it is a good idea for them to state specifically on your sick notes when an illness is pregnancy-related.

You should not be treated less favourably than other employees because you are sick so, for instance, you should be paid your employer’s normal sick pay.

If your employer normally pays contractual sick pay, you are entitled to receive it during pregnancy in the usual way.

If you are not entitled to contractual sick pay or it has run out, you may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

Your employer must record any pregnancy-related sickness absence separately from other sick leave, so that pregnancy-related sickness absence is ignored as absence and is not used to your disadvantage e.g. for disciplinary action, dismissal or redundancy.

If your employer refuses to pay sick pay during pregnancy (contractual or SSP), you may have a claim for pregnancy discrimination and you should get further advice as soon as possible – I would also try calling ACAS to check.

If your employer refuses to pay SSP or pays you the wrong amount you can contact the HMRC Employees Helpline and ask them to make a formal decision: 0300 200 3500.

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