Role changed during pregnancy: ask the expert

I am 27 weeks’ pregnant and my company have asked for applications for voluntary redundancy. I have been with the company 1 year and 11 months. I was told I qualify for SMP, which I knew. What I would like to know is do they need to pay me Company Sick Pay if the company is still running? That is 6 weeks at 90%, then 12 weeks at 50%? In the last 2 weeks they have moved me from 1 project to another. No formal letter was issued, just a meeting with my manager. I was told I was being moved as the company was in a mess financially and that they had to place people in projects which were more suited to experience. The project I was in before was involved in going into prisons and working with prisoners on release. They also used this reason for moving, for my safety, even though in the 5 years previous, no pregnant person was ever moved from the project. I became concerned when the Team Leader of HR asked me if I was seconded from the prison project or transferred. If she doesn’t know, who does? I just fear the worst, at a time when I shouldn’t be stressed.

Congratulations on your pregnancy! You referred to Company Sick Pay – are you actually talking about payments for being off sick, or are you referring to Statutory Maternity Pay? SMP is 6 weeks at 90% of your pay, followed by 33 weeks at either £135.45 per week, or 90 per cent of your pay, whichever is lower.

As long as you are an employee of the organisation they are legally obliged to pay you your SMP, as this is a statutory entitlement. For company sick pay, if it is contractual (i.e. expressly stated as being part of your terms & conditions of employment) then they again need to pay this to you if you are genuinely off sick. If the company sick pay is discretional – i.e. the policy states that they can choose not to pay it if they feel there are genuine reasons not to – then you may not be entitled to it; however you would still be eligible for Statutory Sick pay (SSP).

Regarding changes in role, most employment contracts have a flexibility clause that allows an employer to make reasonable changes to someone’s responsibilities (although they key word there is ‘reasonable’, which is always open to interpretation!). It would be good practice for them to confirm those changes in writing, e.g. by way of a revised job description, so you can request this if they haven’t done so.

You said your role was changed & the reason given was your safety, due to you being an expectant mother. To clear this one up, ask them to conduct a proper Risk Assessment for you, which is what they should be doing anyway. There are plenty of specific RA templates for mums-to-be available online – just google ‘Risk assessment template for expectant mothers’! This should get you (& them!) some clarity over whether or not you actually need to move role, s that it can’t just be used as an excuse without being objectively justified.

With 1 year 11 month’s service, you are not entitled to any statutory redundancy pay, but your employer may have enhanced provisions (i.e. pay over & above the statutory minimum). If you complete 2 years before any redundancy takes place, you are entitled to a statutory payment but it will be very little, so unless they are offering an enhanced payment, taking VR may well not be worth your while financially.

If, however, you are dismissed by reason of redundancy, if this happens before the 15th week before the baby is due (the ‘qualifying week’) you will not qualify for SMP, but may be able to claim Maternity Allowance. If you are made redundant in or after the qualifying week you are entitled to receive SMP for the full 39 week period.

As a pregnant woman, you are protected from unfair selection for redundancy on the grounds of your pregnancy, so most employers steer well clear of redundancies for pregnant employees if they can, in case a claim rears its ugly head! So it is in your employer’s best interests to work through this properly with you & clear up any grey areas – but you may need to give your line manager & HR a prod to work together to do that!





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