Agency workers: pregnant workers and new mothers

If you're an agency worker and pregnant, or a new mother, you should know your employment rights to make sure you are not discriminated against because of your pregnancy.

Protections for pregnant workers and new mothers

There are rules in place to protect:

  • pregnant workers
  • women who have given birth in the last six months
  • women who are breastfeeding

You will need to first tell the agency of your pregnancy and also in writing to the hirer where you are working.

Risks to your health

If the hirer identifies a risk, they will need to make a change if it is reasonable. If it is not reasonable, then your agency should offer you suitable alternative work, if available. You should be paid at least the same rate until the end of the assignment. You'll not be eligible if you have unreasonably refused suitable work.

If there is no suitable work, the agency is required to pay you at the same rate for the life of an ended assignment. If the end date is not known, the agency must pay you for what would have been the likely time of the ended assignment.

Antenatal appointments

If you're a pregnant agency worker on an assignment, after completing the 12 week qualifying period you will be allowed paid time off to go to:

  • antenatal medical appointments
  • antenatal classes

If you need to take time off for antenatal appointments, you will continue to be paid at the usual hourly rate after 12 weeks in the same job. This includes the time of the appointment and time taken to travel to the appointment and back, if it is during your normal working hours.

Examples of discrimination

It would be discrimination if on the grounds of your pregnancy:

  • an agency refused to place you in an assignment
  • a hirer refused to accept you
  • an assignment was terminated

It may be indirect discrimination if an agency refuses to accept you on its books or offers only very short assignments while offering longer assignments to other agency workers.

It may be discrimination in certain circumstances where a hirer fails to allow you to return to a temporary post which you had previously had following an absence due to maternity.

Where to get help

The Labour Relations Agency (LRA) offers free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues.

If you are a member of a trade union you can get help, advice and support from them.

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