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What happens if I am sick during pregnancy, maternity leave, or when I was supposed to return to work?

If you are absent through sickness during pregnancy, this should not automatically trigger your maternity leave and you should be treated as every other member of staff who's off sick. You should usually be paid sick pay in the same way as other staff. However, if you are sick during the last four weeks of your pregnancy your employer can insist that your maternity leave starts, although some employers may prefer to overlook odd days of absence.

Once your maternity leave has started, you cannot claim sick pay from your employer if you become ill. Instead, you will receive maternity pay (statutory or contractual) until this runs out.

If you are sick when your maternity leave is coming to an  end, the usual sickness procedures of your employer will apply to you even if you cannot physically return to work.

If you are dismissed, or suffer other unfavourable treatment because of a pregnancy-related illness before, during or after maternity leave, you may have a claim for sex discrimination and/or pregnancy and maternity discrimination. If you are dismissed, and you believe that your post was terminated partly because of your illness, you may also have a claim for unfair dismissal.

If you have any difficulties with enforcing your rights under these rules, get advice immediately from your union or from a specialist adviser.