Probation affected by pregnancy tiredness: ask the expert

I have been at my current office job since last December. I was unaware when I was given the position that I was pregnant – I am now 32 weeks pregnant.  As with most jobs, there was a standard 6-month probation period, which ended recently.  My first six months had gone well, I thought. I had only had 3 days sick leave even though I had horrendous morning sickness to begin with and my 3-month review meeting was really good with no issues regarding my productivity, accuracy, timekeeping or anything else.  I  have felt increasingly tired over the last couple of months, but had been trying to get up from my desk at regular intervals and stretch my legs.  I was aware that I was working at a slower pace than other people due to my increased tiredness, but this wasn’t communicated to me at all as an issue during my probation period.  I was expecting to pass my probation at my 6-month meeting as I felt everything had gone well, but at my meeting I was told that my productivity had dropped since my 3-month review and my probation was to be extended for a month (up to when my maternity leave commences). I have been set targets to double my output at work which I am finding impossible.  I was diagnosed with pregnancy-related anaemia just over a week ago and I am just so tired I cannot cope with pushing myself so hard at work along with the stress of the possibility of losing my job.  I have had 3 days sick leave in the past week due to exhaustion, which I have been told I will not be paid company sick pay for.  I have explained to my manager about my tiredness and he advised me to “go to bed earlier”.  I am fearful of drinking too much in the day as that would mean more toilet breaks and less time at my desk so I do not get up from my desk now at all apart from my hour lunch break.I have joined Unison but they have informed me they cannot help me until I have been a member for 4 weeks and also cannot help me with any issues that arose before I became a member.  So I’m unsure of where to turn now, and what to do about the health issues I am currently facing, the nil sick pay entitlement and ultimately what to do if my employment is ended at the end of this month.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

There is so much here that your employer is doing wrong –  where to start?! Firstly, if the sick pay is contractual not discretionary, they have to pay it or they are in breach of the terms & conditions of your contract (which would give you valid grounds for a claim to a tribunal if necessary).

Have you actually told them you are pregnant? If you haven’t already, confirm it to them in writing immediately. If they are aware of this there is even less excuse for them to be treating you this way.

They should have carried out a Risk Assessment for you as an expectant mother – this would cover things such as your toilet breaks & legstretching, as well as the anaemia. You can ask them to do a proper RA now, & if they don’t (or don’t do it properly & make reasonable adjustments for you) then this is a potential discrimination case.

Your tiredness is pregnancy-related, so again they can’t discriminate against you on this & should take it into account when determining what they expect of you (targets, productivity etc.) At the moment their expectations are unrealistic & unfair, & the ‘go to bed earlier’ comment is neither constructive, helpful or supportive!

If they terminate your contract, you don’t have length of service entitlement for an unfair dismissal claim, but you can certainly claim pregnancy discrimination under the Equality Act, in addition to the breach of contract on the sick pay.

I suggest you put something in writing to your manager & cc in HR, explaining all this & asking that they start with a RA for you & use this to make reasonable adjustments, including to your targets. Point out that this is not a formal grievance on your part – yet! – & that you want to avoid that route, but will do if this unfair treatment continues.

Comments [8]

  • Gemma says:

    after 2 months into my new job i realised i was 4 weeks pregnant.
    I am now 11 weeks and i gave the news to my line manager 1 week ago.
    Since i started I have been working without assistant as we havent managed to find the right person yet; meaning that I have been doing crazy hours and covering more daily operations than my contractual responsibilities.
    I have mentioned this numerous times to my line manager but I had little help till this week when he has sent another manager to assist me.
    My performance hasn’t been great if you compare me with the role I am filling however I have been covering 2 roles since I started and I believe this should not affect my probation period.
    He has mentioned he might need to extend my probation.
    When i told him about my pregnancy he asked me not to tell any other person in the company or the site where i am working. No RA has been completed, HR has not been informed.
    I am suffering constant nausea and tiredness but I am trying to cover this up as best as i can.
    However i am extremely nervous as i believe he could terminate my contract pointing at my performance in my role.
    This is the first time in my life I have any complaints in my performance at work.
    Should I inform HR even with his explicit instructions of not informing anyone?

    • Mandy Garner says:

      You should officially inform your employer of your pregnancy in order to protect yourself from being dismissed as a result of your pregnancy, to ensure you get a proper risk assessment and to have access to time off for ante-natal appointments. If he asks, say that you needed to let HR know in order to get access to a risk assessment.

  • Trish says:

    I am on a 6 month probation period.. in which five week into it i found out i was pregnant ive had to leave work once due to child care then again due to pregnancy related issues and alsi had the folkowing day of for the same reasons i am really scared they will terminate my contract at the end of probation period is that allowed as my hours off are 5 for child care the one full day and 5.30 hours of pregnancy related illness???

  • Hayley says:

    Hi, I have just started a new job and found out I was 7 weeks pregnant just before starting. I am on a 3 month probation period and I am concerned they may terminate my contract after 3 months. Are they able to do this?

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi Hayley,
      If your contract is terminated due to pregnancy that would represent pregnancy-related discrimination and be illegal. You are not under any obligation to inform them of your pregnancy until the 25th week. As you got pregnant before you started, you would not be entitled to SMP, but you could get Maternity Allowance via your local Job Centre Plus. Is there any particular reason you think your contract might be terminated?
      Best wishes,

  • Aaron Watling says:

    Hi, my girlfriend started a new job working as a animal re-homer for RSPCA, the day after she started we found out that she was 3-4 weeks pregnant. She is on a 6 month probation period and is worrying that she won’t get maternity leave which means we both won’t be able to afford our own place to raise a child as we still live with our parents. Can anyone shine any light on this and please help or give guidance as its putting a hell of a lot of stress on her and us in our relationship.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi, I start my new job in April with 12 months temporary contract and I found out im pregnant. My manager said they not gonna pay me for maternity leave and im gonna lose my job because I still in probation time and im pregnant. I wanna know if they can do that. thanks

    Editor: You are entitled to maternity leave and if you were pregnant after you started work and are still there as of the 26th week of your pregnancy and earn an average of at least £111 a week in the eight weeks leading up to the 26th week of your pregnancy then you will get SMP. Also your employer cannot fire you due to pregnancy as this consitutes pregnancy discrimination. You are protected from this from day one of employment – see

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