Taking time off work because of illness is never easy. With HG there are specific issues which make it much more difficult - 1. you have no way of knowing how long it will last for, 2. rest is absolutely essential for recovery, 3. HG typically lasts for much longer than 'normal' pregnancy sickness and 4. lack of awareness of the condition in the general public mean that you may have to spend a lot of time and energy educating your employer about it.
Many women report that they have problems with their employers insinuating that they are exaggerating their illness and are just slacking off. Many are faced with the 'You're not sick you're pregnant' attitude and feel bullied into returning to work before they are ready.
The good news is that you do have rights. It is illegal for your employer to sack you or reduce your hours because of a pregnancy related illness. Nor can your employer force you to start maternity leave earlier than 4 weeks before your due date. You must be signed off work by your doctor to get your employer's sick pay or statutory sick pay so it is essential that you explain to your doctor that you cannot work. If / when you are feeling better, your doctor must sign you 'fit for work' and they can ask that you have a phased return to work with amended duties and reduced working hours. Your employer then has to do a risk assessment taking into account what your doctor has advised and how the illness will impact on your ability to work.
Remember too that you may be feeling ok sitting at home on the sofa, but the majority of women with HG find that doing any kind of exertion whatsoever brings the nausea back. You are not a wimp because you can only work a few hours a day once you return to work when you are over the peak period of HG; it's perfectly normal for HG and is to be expected. You have to resume work very gradually and listen to your body.
If you are in a union, they should be able to advise you on the legalities and what you can expect from your employers. You can ask for a union rep to be present at meetings with your employer.
Other useful source of information and advice:
- Working Families (link Working Families). A charity dedicated to helping people find a good work-life balance. There is information on their website but they also have a helpline that you can call to ask for more specific advice.
- Maternity Action (link Maternity Action ). A charity working to promote the health and wellbeing of all pregnant women. Attached and available to download at the bottome of this page is their factsheet on maternity rights. This links to their page on losing your job because you are pregnant and what your rights are pregnancy discrimination
- Pregnancy Sickness Support has a page describing employment rights specifically relating to pregnancy sickness PSS employment issues
For more information about sick leave and maternity rights, see the following links
Statutory maternity pay
Taking Sick Leave