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There’s an urban myth that you cannot tackle a pregnant employee’s underperformance. It’s not true but you need to do so in a fair manner.

Firstly, sit down with the pregnant employee and discuss your concerns in a tactful manner. Questions should be framed in terms of showing empathy and support for the employee and concern as to how they are getting on, what support do they need. Document your conversation.

Next, having talked with the employee, you may be able to sort things through simple practical steps or you may want to ask for a letter from their GP to understand what impact their pregnancy may be having on their performance and what reasonable adjustments you should consider.

Then if the evidence provided shows the dip in performance is not related to the pregnancy. How do you address this, formally or informally?

Minor matters can be dealt with informally and in a way that avoids unnecessary upset for you and the employee at what may be a stressful time for both parties. Always remember though to record what was discussed and agreed as you may need to return to the matter later.

Serious matters may require formal managing, and to avoid the suspicion “it’s because of the pregnancy” always ask the question, “are you satisfied that if this was an employee who was acting in this way and who was not pregnant, would you treat them in the same way?”

If formal action is required, ensure that proper procedure is followed, all meetings and discussions recorded and that the employee is given a real chance to improve. You should consider if deadlines and targets might need to be adjusted to take account of the pregnancy. Caution should be your watchword.

Assuming that you are satisfied that performance issues are not pregnancy related, and the employee fails to improve despite support and adequate improvement time, you can dismiss a pregnant employee in the same way as any other employee.

Bear in mind that an employee can claim that she has been unfairly dismissed for a reason relating to pregnancy or maternity and it is vital that you follow a fair and transparent process.

If you need any assistance with managing pregnant employees, please give us a call on 01527 909436.