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Pregnancy, maternity and work during the Covid-19 crisis

  • Extra precautions should be taken when pregnant as it can cause immune suppression. It is important to make it clear in the workplace that pregnant workers should not work on the front lines or mix with the public during times of crisis. Covid-19 has witnessed the deaths of many pregnant workers during this crisis. These deaths were caused by systemic racism, lack of PPE, and neglect of care. Trade Unions are leading the fight for pregnant workers’ protection.

    Issues facing pregnant workers

    Unions discovered that employers were sending pregnant women home on Statutory SickPay (SSP) or furloughing them. This violates women’s rights under health and safety laws. If a risk has been identified (in this case coronavirus exposure), the employer must take reasonable measures such as changing working hours or working conditions to avoid the risk.

    Employers are required to suspend employees from work for as long as it is safe to do so. This provision is found in the 1996 Employment Rights Act.

    Unions help thousands of pregnant women. Some of the issues discussed have been:

    • Pregnant women are entitled to 100% of their normal wages if they are unable to work for safety and health reasons. However, some employers offer pregnant women the option of receiving 80% of their average earnings instead or just their SSP.
    • Women in are losing out on their pay and, in most cases won’t qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay. SMP is not available to them as their earnings were too low during the qualifying period.
    • Trade Union members reported that while maternity rights shouldn’t be affected by being on sick leave, they have seen cases where women were forced to take maternity leave earlier or received only 80% of what they are entitled to. Even if they are furloughed, pregnant workers still have the right to the same maternity benefits as their pregnancies.
    • Women who are pregnant in the public and private sectors, as well as key workers, have complained of feeling discriminated against. They were denied PPE, refused requests to work from home or forced to make financial decisions that would disproportionately impact their finances.

    Rights of pregnant employees

    Is my job protected against unfair treatment, dismissal, and redundancy?

    No unfair treatment or dismissal is allowed if your pregnancy or maternity has a bearing on your employment.

    If you are pregnant or on maternity leaves, your employer must write the reason why you were fired.

    If you believe your dismissal was related to your pregnancy, or maternity, then you can file an unfair dismissal and discrimination claim at an employment tribunal.

    It is unfair to be selected for furloughing, redundancy or redundancy during pregnancy or maternity leave.

    You must be offered a suitable alternative job if you are made redundant during maternity leave. This is in preference to any other redundant employees. Your dismissal could be automatic if your employer fails to do so. You should be treated equally if you are made redundant prior to going on maternity leave. Redundancy decisions made due to pregnancy or pregnancy-related sickness would constitute pregnancy discrimination.

    Talk to your employer rep if you are a member of a trade union. All other rights remain unaffected. You can find a complete list on the ACAS website.

    Visit the ACAS website .

    What should your employer do

    If you’re pregnant, you may be at risk for contracting the coronavirus. Although you are not more likely to get the virus than the rest of the population, a small number of pregnant women may have an impact on how your body deals with virus infections.

    You can get the most current advice from your midwife or healthcare team about routine antenatal appointments.

    Employers must follow a set of guidelines regarding breastfeeding mothers and pregnant employees.

    Employers are legally required to evaluate the workplace risk for pregnant employees, their unborn children, and breastfeeding mothers returning to work.

    They must review these risks as their circumstances change or as the pregnancy progresses. If they are concerned about Covid-19 exposure, they should take these steps:

    1. They should try to eliminate or reduce your risk exposure.
    2. They may temporarily change your work conditions so that you can work remotely
    3. You should consider other employment with the same pay rates if that is impossible.
    4. If they cannot do this, they will suspend you from working on full pay until your safety and that of your baby are protected. Your normal earnings should determine your full pay, and not your contractual hours.


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