Pregnancy rights as a self-employed person: ask the expert

I’m a self employed personal trainer and contracted to a gym as a ‘supplier’. As part of the contract I am required to wear a uniform, but at 15 weeks, it’s starting to feel uncomfortable. I asked if I could wear my own trousers and was told no, I will have to wear men’s trousers. As they are gym trousers with a scrunched elastic waist band, they are still digging in and feel uncomfortable around my tummy. Can I wear my own trousers, or do I have to put up with what I’ve told to wear? Also what rights am I entitled to as a self-employed person? I plan to work up till my due date and return after four months, but I’m now afraid I’ll be forced to leave.

I understand that you are a self-employed personal trainer and that as part of your contract with the gym you are required to wear a uniform. You are currently 15 weeks pregnant and would like to wear your own uniform but you have been told that you must wear the male uniform.

The discrimination legislation protects individuals who are “in employment”. This covers not only employees, but also individuals who are self-employed, provided that their contract obliges them to perform the work personally. Therefore, if you are obliged to perform your personal training services personally and not sub-contract to others then it is likely that you will be covered by the discrimination legislation.

Your employer’s treatment of you in forcing you to wear an uncomfortable uniform could constitute pregnancy/maternity discrimination on the basis that you have been treated unfavourably because of your pregnancy. If your employer forces you to leave due to your pregnancy, this could also constitute pregnancy/maternity discrimination. You could submit a claim to an employment tribunal and must do so within three months of the unfavourable treatment. Before submitting a claim to an employment tribunal, I would advise you to submit a grievance to your employer, explaining that you consider its treatment of you to be unfair and discriminatory. This will give your employer the opportunity to resolve the matter internally before you submit a claim to the tribunal.

You have also asked about your rights as a self-employed person. You are not entitled to take a period of ordinary or additional maternity leave off work as these rights are only available to employees. Furthermore, only employees are entitled to statutory maternity pay. However, you may be entitled to maternity allowance (‘MA’). MA can be paid for up to 39 weeks. To qualify for MA you need to satisfy the employment rule and the earnings rule.  To satisfy the employment rule, you must have been self-employed for at least 26 weeks in your 66 week test period. To satisfy the earnings rule your earnings, on average, must be at least equal to the Maternity Allowance Threshold (MAT) which applies at the beginning of your test period. Provided that you satisfy these two rules, you will be entitled to MA for a maximum of 39 weeks. This is currently paid at a standard rate of £138.18 a week (from 7 April 2014) or 90% of your gross average weekly earnings, if this calculation results in a figure which is less than the standard rate of MA.

Please contact Tracey Guest on 0161 975 3823 if you would like further advice in relation to this matter.


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