Issues relating to pregnancy, maternity and parenthood can be a minefield for employers – get it wrong and not only do you have an unhappy employee but you could be facing an unlimited bill for damages for unfair dismissal or sex discrimination.

There are complex rules about maternity, paternity, adoption and parental leave, rights during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding and legal requirements about what you must do when you employ someone who is pregnant. It is unlawful to dismiss a woman or treat her differently because she is or has been pregnant or for various other maternity related reasons, or to dismiss someone or treat them differently because they have exercised or sought to assert certain parental rights (such as the right to reasonable unpaid time off to deal with family emergencies.)

Women on maternity leave have special protection against being selected for redundancy – if you have a suitable alternative vacancy they have to be offered this in preference to anyone else.

Requests for part time or other kinds of flexible working also need to be carefully considered – refusal without a good reason can amount to indirect discrimination and it is also important to guard against the risk that requests from men are not treated less favourably than requests from women.

Rees Page can health check your policies and procedures in this area to make sure that they comply with the law and can advise in relation to any problems or queries that arise. Whilst our advice will be aimed at keeping you out of the Tribunal if the worst happens and a Claim is made against you we can represent you.