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Journey into the world of hyperemesis gravidarum...
17May 14

Employment rights for spewing mummies

I've been advising a friend of mine this week who works for a big, well known supermarket in the UK and is being treated unfairly due to pregnancy sickness. Like 30% of pregnant women she has needed to have a few days off work because she's spewing up constantly. Now I don't know about you but I don't particularly want people spewing up at work in the supermarket I shop in... Clearly she needs to be off for a bit.

But her employer is being difficult about it and saying they may have to look at disciplinary action if she phones in sick again... Despite knowing that she is pregnant. This is a depressingly common story and is an unacceptable situation! They are also threatening to demote her from her role, which is outright illegal!

Rest is an important part of self managing pregnancy sickness and for some women could prevent symptoms escalating into full blown Hyperemesis Gravidarum. In the UK we are entitled to take time off work for sickness and we are also entitled to not be discriminated against or treated unfairly when pregnant. Obviously your employer needs to know you are pregnant for your rights to be triggered so it's a good idea to tell them straight away if you are phoning in sick due to pregnancy. It can't then be recorded on your normal sickness record or used against you in disciplinary or dismissal cases.

Women have always had a tough time when it comes to employment rights and there are still sectors today where we earn less than men. But if government and society want women to work outside of the home and also to continue populating the world with people to continue the human race then they need to start treating us better in the work place!

Personally I was so lucky with my employers during my pregnancies. They were very supportive and kind... Working for NHS GP practices as a nurse you would hope for good practice although I know other nurses and even doctors who have suffered terribly at the hands of their employers.

It's not just the women suffering that can face discrimination either. A good friend of mine's husband lost his job during her second hyperemesis pregnancy as he had to take time off work to care for their first child while she was in hospital! Imagine sacking someone because his wife is in hospital... What sort of society do we live in?

So what can you do if you are having problems at work? Know your rights and let your employer know that you know them! Print off the information for employers from the PSS website and give it to your manager along with your sick note. Read the page for employees too, there are links there for where to get extra help from Citizens Advice and Maternity Action. If fighting for your rights yourself is too difficult when you are sick then perhaps ask your partner or a relative to advocate for you. Get them to explain the situation to your manager - they can say they've been looking into entitlements and so on in a gentle way that hopefully won't make your return to work awkward. Like with doctors, it's about trying to form a partnership with the employer so that they feel like you are being proactive and not just difficult.

You also don't need to feel like you have to take action whilst still sick. If your employer treats you unfairly during pregnancy then once you are recovered and have the strength you can then take action to exercise your rights and claim compensation.

We need to start standing up to the prejudices and unfairnesses we experience so that society can improve and develop for the good of our daughters and granddaughters. Illegal practice needs not just to stop but to become socially unacceptable and no longer tolerated by women the way they are now. It is small minded bosses and colleagues who have never actually been ill themselves that perpetuate myths and nonsense about women in employment and pregnancy sickness... Education and action is the way forward.

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Great post! Wish I'd had this when I was off due to HG and my employers were being difficult in paying my SSP. I found CAB to be a great help and have used Maternity Action since then too, who are also fab. Even now, I know my work thought I was milking it, even when signed off for 9 weeks and in & out of hospital. Very glad to have legal rights here in the UK though.
Amy - Diddle Diddle Dumpling, 17th May 2014

Spewing Mummy replies...

Thanks Amy, we are definitely lucky in the UK compared to other places like the USA but we need to start excersizing the rights we fought hard to get! It's unbelievable how much discrimination against women still goes on in the work place and there seems to be a "cultural guilt" about being a pregnant employee. Since I posted this I've had a few friends on Facebook message me about the problems they are facing and didn't realise that they had rights. There is also often an assumption that employers know the law and act within it but that's often not the case. Glad CAB and Maternity Action were helpful! X

I had fairly awful sickness throughout my pregnancy - whilst it didn't result in full blown HG, it lasted the whole pregnancy, sometimes six times in one night. Thankfully I do know my rights (I am a lawyer) but I worry about situations like this. I've heard other colleagues discussed as being "weak" or "work shy" for being off sick. There is also the accusation that you are not looking after yourself which nobody needs to hear when you are carrying a lodger inside you. Yes employers are breaking the law, but when people don't know their rights, the employers will just get away with it. Sad, but true. I hope your friend fights back!!
Anon, 17th May 2014

Spewing Mummy replies...

Thanks for your comment, it's interesting hearing from a lawyer. Your right, it's not good enough the laws being in place, it's up to us all to exercise our rights and stand up to employers being difficult. Unfortunately though the reality is a fine balance between getting what you are entitled to and making your work environment a nightmare to go to each day once you're well. Like you say, it's not just the management but colleagues too who hold misconceptions about pregnancy sickness and can be cruel.

Thank you for all your wonderful and informational posts! I just found you and wish I had sooner. I was fired from my job w my third pregnancy because I missed too much work from my hyperemesis. I was hospitalized and had notes from my dr's and everything and they didn't care. I decided I didn't want to work for a non profit that didn't understand the situation. I think it's so hard because you walk the fine line of not wanting to loose your job. My husband has had take time off to help me w my pregnancy now and it's been difficult with his work. I worry for the rest of my pregnancy.
Katy , 26th May 2014

Spewing Mummy replies...

Hi Katy, I'm glad you found my blog but sad you lost your job. Unfortunately I think employment rights in the USA are very different and certainly much worse when it comes to pregnancy and maternity matters. It's worth getting in touch with the HER Foundation though. x

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About Me

I am mother of three beautiful children and wife to a fantastic and supportive husband. I am a nurse, a farmer and a trustee for Pregnancy Sickness Support. I love working hard and spending time with my kids.

About this blog

Information and support for pregnancy sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum. Views are my own and do not represent those of any other organisation. Information provided here should not be a substitute for medical advice. My aim is to raise awareness and encourage sufferers to know they are not alone.

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