Ask Fred

Q When do I have to tell my boss that I am pregnant? I work full-time and I'm not sure what I am entitled to, when I can stop work or how long I can stay off to look after the baby. And I'm worried about being pregnant and standing in a cold shop all day. PJ


A Pregnant employees have four key rights: paid time off for antenatal care; maternity leave; maternity pay benefits; and protection against unfair treatment or dismissal.


You must tell your employer that you are pregnant at least 15 weeks before the start of the week when your baby is due. You should also tell them when you want to start your maternity leave and receive Statutory Maternity Pay.


Telling your employer earlier is a good idea, because it will allow them to plan around your maternity leave and carry out their legal obligations to you. This is important, as you are concerned about standing in the shop all day. On this point you should chat through what your job is with your doctor and he or she will advise you on any connected issues. Your employer, as part of the normal risk assessment, must consider if any work is likely to present a particular risk to women of child-bearing age. This is why you should tell your employer that you are pregnant as early as possible, so that he or she can identify if any further actions are needed. Your employer should involve you in the process and continue to review the assessment as your pregnancy progresses.


These risks might be caused by:


l lifting or carrying heavy loads


l standing or sitting for long periods


l exposure to toxic substances


l long working hours.


Your employer must then either remove the risk or remove you from being exposed to it for example, by offering you suitable alternative work. In the highly unlikely event that removal from any of the above situations cannot be achieved, your employer should suspend you from work on full pay.


Telling your employer is also important, because you cannot take paid time off for antenatal appointments until you have done so. However long you have been in your job, you are entitled to reasonable time off work for antenatal care. It is unlawful for your employer to refuse to give you this or refuse to pay you at your normal rate. If you can arrange appointments at a reasonable time outside your normal working hours, you should do so.


Your employer can ask for evidence of antenatal appointments from the second appointment onwards. If asked, you should show your employer a medical certificate to confirm you are pregnant and an appointment card or other written evidence of your appointment.


Statutory Maternity Leave is 52 weeks. As an 'employee' you have the right to 26 weeks of 'ordinary maternity leave' and 26 weeks of 'additional maternity leave', totalling one year.


Once you have told your employer your intended date to start maternity leave, they must then confirm your return date in writing within 28 days. You can change this date if you give your employer eight weeks' notice. Much of the above information, along with further details of employment while pregnant, can be found on the direct.gov.uk website.




Q I have been developing several chicken products wrapped in bacon, They taste great, but the the bacon is turning the white poultry meat pink. Can this be prevented? DWH


A The problem, of course, is that pink chicken does not look appetising, giving it an uncooked appearance even after it has been cooked. This is likely to be the case with any white poultry meat that comes into contact with bacon.


The best way to prevent it happening is to coat the poultry with an oil-based marinade. Be careful to choose one that is relatively neutral in flavour perhaps a marinade that just adds a seasoning, rather than a distinctive strong flavour. Any reputable seasoning or flavours company will advise on which of their products is best for the job.