Self-employed and pregnant. What are my rights? Ask the expert

I have been a self employed agent with a company from earlier this year and have signed a yearly contract with them starting from that date. I have found out that I am pregnant and the baby is due in the autumn. I haven’t told my principal yet as I am waiting on scan and test results coming back. I know I will be entitled to Maternity Allowance, but I would like to know what my rights are regarding my contract as I am fit and healthy and wish to continue working right up to my due date and returning after minimum maternity leave. Do the company need to keep me on? Will they still pay my commission during my maternity leave and also do they have to keep the position open for me to return after the baby?

I’m afraid  that as a self-employed contracted worker, rather than an employee, you have no maternity rights beyond Maternity Allowance. So although your client company should still ensure your health & safety as an expectant mother, you have no rights to maternity leave, return to work, SMP, continued benefits etc.

You can certainly continue working for as long as you like – this is your choice, not that of your client company, although if they have valid business reasons to terminate your service contract early then they can do (subject to any provisions in the contract for giving notice etc.) From what you’ve said, it seems you want to take 2 weeks off (the period of compulsory leave after having a baby) then return to your contract. Again, unless the client company has a valid business reason for not wanting you to do that, it shouldn’t be a problem (presumably you could take 2 weeks’ prearranged holiday time during your year’s contract without it being a problem?). Any entitlement to sales commissions while you are taking time off would again be subject to any agreed arrangements in your contract.
The bottom line is that your pregnancy & maternity leave should not be a factor in any decision the company makes regarding whether or not to continue your contract. You are still protected by discrimination legislation though, so if you feel you have suffered detrimental treatment due to your pregnancy & not for any objectively justifiable business reasons, then you can still claim for sex discrimination under the Equality Act.

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