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Maternity Leave, Paternity Leave, and Shared Parental Leave

Maternity Leave, Paternity Leave, and Shared Parental Leave

All pregnant women, regardless of their length of service in the NHS or hours of work, are entitled to a period of 52 weeks maternity leave. This is made up of 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave (OML) and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave beginning the day after OML finishes.

Once you know you are pregnant you must inform your TPD in writing and state when you wish to start your maternity leave. Although you may not how long you would like your leave to last, you can increase the amount originally stated (up to the maximum 52 weeks) at any point as long as you keep your employer fully informed, usually with 28 days notice of any changes. You will have to complete a maternity leave notification form. In addition you have to submit your MATB1 form to your Trust to ensure statutory maternity pay.

Pregnant employees have four key rights:

  • Paid time off for antenatal care
  • Maternity Leave
  • Maternity Pay
  • Protection again unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal as a consequence of being pregnant, or on maternity leave.

You must also inform your Head of Department or Clinical Lead that you are pregnant so a risk assessment can be made to protect your health and that of your baby. If you are concerned about any aspect of the risk assessment contact your Occupational Health department at the Trust for help and advice.

Factors to Consider in risk assessment of the Surgical Environment

Different surgical specialties have risk profiles unique to their environments. Useful advice to pregnant surgeons includes; considering frequent breaks during long operations, asking for a rest area for breaks during your shifts and changing to operating sitting down – if feasible.

A working group from the Faculty of Occupational Medicine at The Royal College of Physicians produced a report related to studies on women working up to 40 hours a week on average. The findings of the working group were:

  • There is inconsistent evidence that heavy physical work may be associated with a moderate risk of low birth weight, pre-term birth and pre-eclampsia.
  • There is generally consistent evidence that lifting does not carry more than a moderate increase in the risk of pre-term birth (delivery before 37 weeks)
  • There is generally consistent evidence that standing continuously for over three hours carries a small risk of pre-term birth, low birth weight.
  • There is very little evidence that standing for prolonged periods has any impact on the risk of developing pre-eclampsia.
  • There is consistent evidence that working up to 40 hours a week carries no more than a small risk of pre-term birth or low birth weight.
  • There is limited, and inconsistent, evidence of any increased risk of pre-eclampsia in women working up to 40 hours a week.
  • There is insufficient evidence that shift working (days, nights, rotating) increases the risk of any adverse outcome.

There is no automatic right to cease night shifts or long shifts at any given gestation. If you feel you need to reduce nights or long days in your third trimester do get the support of your GP. If it is necessary, on medical advice, to reduce out of hours work then suitable alternative daytime work has to be provided. However this adjustment cannot disadvantage other trainees in the same department.

The Women in Surgery (WinS) section of the Royal College of Surgeons (London) advise their trainees that radiation exposure if wearing a lead gown is less than 1 milliSievert over nine months. They remind trainees that some exposure may be necessary to fulfill training requirements.

The Royal College of Anaesthetists have helpful information on their website, but again, there is no evidence that routine exposure to anaesthesia is teratogenic. The COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) legally binding workplace exposure limit for prolonged exposure to Isoflurane is 50 parts per million. Limits are not applied for short term exposure.

Dental surgeons with a high use of nitrous oxide have been shown to have altered red blood cell maturation however.

If you become unwell with a pregnancy related illness within 4 weeks of your estimated date of delivery, your employer can require you to commence maternity leave.

The earliest maternity leave can begin is 29 weeks. You cannot work for 2 weeks after the baby’s birth. Most women stop around 36 weeks. ’Term’ begins at 37 weeks with a 1 in 15 chance of delivery within the ensuing 7 days. Approximately 25% of women delivery in weeks 38 and 39, and by the due date 50% will have delivered. Obviously twin pregnancies end sooner and subsequently maternity leave may be started earlier.


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