Managing Maternity: Managing Attendance

Managing Maternity Attendance

Managing Attendance during pregnancy. If an employee cannot come to work because of a pregnancy-related illness, they should:

  • report in sick in the usual way
  • get their usual sick pay

Pregnancy-related illness can include:

  • morning sickness (nausea and vomiting)
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • backache
  • bleeding

If you’re not sure whether an illness is pregnancy related, you can ask them to provide a note from the doctor (‘fit note’).

It’s a good idea to:

  • take the employee’s wellbeing seriously, particularly if there are any known health and safety risks (you could also be breaking discrimination law if you do not allow them the time off)
  • be as flexible as you can about the amount of sick leave they take (pregnancy-related illnesses affect people differently)

Recording absence

You should record pregnancy-related absence separately from other sickness absence.

You should not count these absences towards any review or trigger points in your absence policy.

Find out more about:

  • sick pay
  • absence policies

4 weeks before the baby is due

If the employee is off work because of a pregnancy-related illness within 4 weeks of the due date, maternity leave begins automatically. This is unless you and the employee agree together to delay it (for example, for health and safety reasons).

Once maternity leave starts, you must pay them maternity pay instead of sick pay.

If they have a difficult pregnancy

It’s a good idea to be understanding towards an employee who’s having physical or mental health difficulties when pregnant. 

For example, consider offering:

  • different work start and finish times
  • working from home
  • extra breaks
  • an occupational health assessment, for example to look at whether a chair can be adjusted for someone with back pain

If they need long-term changes to how they work, flexible working might be a good idea.

The law on discrimination 

It’s against the law to treat an employee unfairly because of a pregnancy-related illness.

Attending pregnancy-related appointments

Pregnant employees are entitled to time off with full pay for pregnancy-related (‘antenatal’) appointments. 

Antenatal appointments include:

  • medical appointments related to a pregnancy
  • classes for pregnancy-related health, fitness or relaxation 
  • sessions that support the person’s mental health and wellbeing

Paid time off for antenatal appointments includes travel time.

The employee should give you as much notice as possible for time off work.

How much time is needed

The law does not say how much time can be taken off, only that it must be a ‘reasonable’ amount.

Usually, a pregnant employee needs:

  • up to 10 antenatal appointments if it’s their first baby
  • around 7 antenatal appointments if they’ve had a baby before

As every pregnancy is different, it’s a good idea to be flexible and understanding if an employee needs more appointments.

After the first appointment, they must provide an appointment card or other evidence of their appointments if you ask for it.

If they’re adopting

By law:

  • the main adopter is entitled to paid time off for up to 5 adoption appointments
  • the secondary adopter is entitled to take unpaid time off for up to 2 appointments

Some employment contracts may allow for more, or paid, time off for these appointments.

Find out more about rights for employees using adoption.

If they’re using surrogacy

Unless the contract says otherwise, an employee can take unpaid time off for 2 antenatal appointments if they’re using surrogacy and will become the child’s legal parent once it’s born.

If they’re having IVF treatment

There’s no legal right for time off work for IVF treatment or related sickness. But you should treat an employee’s IVF appointments and any sickness the same as any other medical appointment or sickness. Check the employment contract if you’re not sure.

It’s a good idea to be open to any requests your employee has for:

  • flexible working
  • paid time off, unpaid time off or holiday

The law on discrimination 

It’s against the law to treat an employee unfairly because of their antenatal appointments.

Not sure how you should go about managing the attendance of a colleague during a pregnancy? Seek professional support. Give Beagle HR a call today

This article has been adapted from the ACAS website