Maternity protection: 4 principles your company must respect

If one of your employees becomes pregnant, she should inform you as soon as possible. From that moment on you are legally obliged to offer her maternity protection. In practice, you must adhere to these four principles.

1. The prohibition of discrimination

As an employer, you are by law obliged to treat male and female employees in the same way. Maternity or the chance that female employees may (still) have children should therefore not lead to discrimination.

As soon as an employee notifies you of her pregnancy, she is immediately protected from dismissal and is entitled to a leave of absence in certain cases. Maternity protection applies until one month after the postnatal leave.

2. Prior risk analysis of work function

When a new female employee is hired, as an employer you must carry out a preventive risk analysis of her function and outline a policy, even if she is not pregnant. Can her tasks affect her health or the baby’s, during her pregnancy or while breastfeeding? Based on the findings, you should then take the necessary preventive measures. Your external prevention service can help you with the implementation of this risk analysis.

Using the preparatory risk analysis, the occupational physician will determine the most suitable option:

  • either adjust working conditions or working hours temporarily;
  • or temporarily give the employee other tasks to perform.

After you have received the medical certificate of pregnancy from a pregnant employee who is professionally at risk, inform the External Service for Prevention and Protection at Work so that an examination can be carried out. The occupational physician will then provide you and your employee with his or her findings.

3. Possible compulsory leave

If, as an employer, you cannot follow the occupational physician’s recommendation, you must notify the health insurance fund and temporarily put the employee on non-active status. The occupational physician issued a certificate during the consultation, which you then fill out. You don’t have to pay the employee a salary, as she can claim a benefit from the health insurance fund.

The health insurance fund also intervenes if your employee, back from maternity leave, also runs risks during the breastfeeding period.

4. Prohibition to work nights or overtime

A pregnant employee can refuse night work:

  • from eight weeks before the expected delivery date, without a medical certificate;
  • always with a medical certificate, up to four weeks after confinement.

Day work may be an alternative or – if that is not possible – a temporary suspension of the employment contract.

The employee also has the option to request another work scheduling system:

  • without a medical certificate, she can do that from three months before to three months after the birth;
  • with a certificate, she can do it during her pregnancy or from three months after delivery.

The law does not allow for overtime during the pregnancy or breastfeeding period. There are exceptions for staff members in a position of trust or in a managerial position.

We help you implement maternity protection rules

Assisted by our prevention advisor-occupational physician, you can be sure that your employee will not be at risk during her pregnancy or while she is breastfeeding. Email us or call us on +32 2 549 71 00 to make an appointment.