If you are suffering from postnatal depression you might be entitled to certain rights under the Equality Act, depending on its severity and length. Some women suffer from the illness straight after they have given birth whereas others are diagnosed with the condition after they return to work.

Unlike when women are pregnant or on maternity leave, employees have no specific protection if they are sick once they have returned to work following maternity leave. If you find yourself in this unfortunate position, provisions relating to sickness absence will apply.

Sickness Absence

In short, you will be expected to follow any sickness absence policies that your employer has in place, including notifying your employer of sickness within required timeframes and providing self-certification forms of fit notes where necessary. If you have no enhanced contractual provision and your entitlement to maternity/parental pay has been exhausted, you will be entitled to statutory sick pay in line with your contract of employment.

If it is that you are absent for a significant period of time, your employer may look to implement a sickness absence procedure. This may involve them contacting your GP, or referring you to an Occupational Health Physician for an assessment, in order to determine if and/or when you are likely to return to work and whether any adjustments could be made to help you to return sooner. Unfortunately, if the medical evidence points towards the fact that you are not likely to return to work in the foreseeable future, your employer can make a decision to terminate your employment on capability grounds, so long as they follow the correct procedure.

When to Return to Work?

If you are suffering from postnatal depression and thinking of returning to work, you need to seriously consider all the options open to you. You are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave and although the last 13 weeks are unpaid, some further time off work, whether paid or not, may assist your recovery. Many women do not realise that they accrue holidays whilst on maternity leave and you could therefore speak to your employer to see whether this can be added on to the end of your maternity leave, meaning you don’t have to return to work as soon as you previously thought.

You can take parental leave, which is usually unpaid although some employers pay employees during this leave. You can also make a flexible working request to see if your hours or working days can be reduced, in a way which would assist you. If you have taken all other leave available to you and you are not well enough to return to work, you can take sick leave.

To speak to Danielle about your rights surrounding maternity leave and pregnancy or if you have an employment issue in the workplace, call 0161 930 5151 or you can email enquiries@gorvins.com.

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