Post Natal Depression - Prolegal

Post Natal Depression

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Sadly, 10-15% of new mothers experience post natal depression, sometimes lasting beyond the period of maternity leave. If this happens, you may not be fit to return to work after your maternity leave ends. What are your rights in this situation?

Firstly, it’s important to remember that you are entitled to up to 52 weeks maternity leave. You may have planned to go back sooner but this may not be realistic if you are suffering with PND. You can also take up to 18 weeks unpaid parental leave if you have been continuously employed for at least a year. The time you spent on maternity leave counts towards this year. If using the default parental leave scheme, your employer may limit the leave to 4 weeks per year and can postpone the leave for up to 6 months if the needs of the business require it.

If you are too unwell to return to work after your maternity leave, your employer’s usual provisions as regards sickness absence will apply. Unlike whilst you are pregnant, there is no special protection for employees who are sick following maternity leave, even if the sickness is related to the birth of your baby. You will be required to notify your employer of your sickness and provide sick notes from your GP as normal. You will be entitled to sick pay in line with the terms of your contract and SSP in default.

If you find that you are absent for a significant time, your employer may implement a sickness absence procedure. They will want to know when you are likely to be able to return to work and whether any adjustments to your role might enable you to return sooner. They may request a report from your GP or ask you to attend Occupational Health. Whilst you might not want your employer to have private health details in such a sensitive situation, if they don’t have confirmation that you are likely to return to work in the foreseeable future, they can legitimately make a decision to terminate your employment.

PND can be classed as a disability depending on its severity and the length of time you are affected. Employers have a duty to consider reasonable adjustments for disabled employees if these would enable them to return to work. This might include a phased return or returning to a less stressful role. You would also have the right not to be discriminated against because of your disability or because of a reason arising from your disability, unless your employer could justify this.

If you are concerned about your employment rights associated with returning to work after maternity leave, whether or not you have post natal depression, contact us for a no obligation conversation to see how we can help you.

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