From free prescriptions to paid time off for antenatal appointments, here’s the lowdown on your entitlements when you’re expecting…
Swot up on work rights
Most pregnant employees are aware of their right to maternity leave and pay, but you might not know about your other legal entitlements. For example, you are allowed paid time off for antenatal care, which includes parenting classes (if recommended by a doctor) as well as medical appointments. This should be paid at your normal rate, and your partner can also take unpaid time off to attend two antenatal appointments.
Of course, you’ll need to tell your employer you’re pregnant in order to take this time off. The latest you can tell them is 15 weeks before the start of the week your baby is due.
Once your employer knows you’re pregnant, they must assess any on-the-job risks – for example: heavy lifting, standing or sitting for long periods of time, and exposure to toxic substances. If there are any risks, your boss must take steps to remove them by offering you a different type of work, or altering your hours. If the risks can’t be removed, you should be suspended on full pay. If you’ve identified risks that your employer doesn’t agree with, speak to your health and safety or trade union representative.
Remember that your contract’s terms and conditions can’t be changed without your agreement. When pregnant, you’re legally protected against dismissal, and also treatment that you think seems unfair or discriminatory.
Make the most of your medical entitlements
You’re entitled to free NHS prescriptions while pregnant, and during the first 12 months after having your baby. To claim, you’ll need a maternity exemption certificate – simply ask your midwife or your doctor’s surgery for a form for you to fill out. It will also entitle you to free NHS dental treatment for the same period, including routine check-ups.
Look into low-income vouchers
There are also some benefits available for those on low incomes. If you’re at least 10 weeks pregnant, you can receive weekly vouchers for free milk, fresh fruit and vegetables, formula and vitamins through the Healthy Start scheme, which can be used at your local Tesco store.
You may also be entitled to a Sure Start Maternity Grant. This is a one-off payment of £500 to put towards the cost of your first baby. The money is tax-free and you don’t need to pay it back. Many parents-to-be choose to put this grant towards expensive items such as the cot or buggy.