Advice for pregnant workers

This page was last updated on 19 July 2021 at 12.45

England is now in step 4 of the government’s roadmap. This means that most legal restrictions have been lifted.

Isolating and testing remains in place, and the government also advises that:

  • If you have been working from home, your employer should make a return to the workplace gradual over the summer.
  • You should consider wearing a face covering in crowded areas.
  • You should continue to minimise social contacts.

Employers still have a legal duty to keep workplaces safe and to keep their employees safe whilst at work and when travelling to work.

Employers must do a pregnancy risk assessment with you

As soon as you inform your employer that you are pregnant, they must do a pregnancy risk assessment with you. This is a legal requirement under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Clearly, this should now include the impact on Covid on you and your baby.

The government has said that your employer should refer to the latest advice issued by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. We expect your manager to use this advice when completing the risk assessment with you.

View the latest guidelines from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists on Covid and pregnancy at work

The risk assessment should consider the nature of your role, the stage of your pregnancy, your age, your race, the prevalence of Covid where you live and where you work, how you travel to work, and anything else relevant to you, your pregnancy and your work. It should be regularly reviewed with you.

Pregnant women who can from work from home should be allowed to work from home.

Under the current restrictions in England, everyone should continue to work from home if they can and minimise travel.

Pregnant women who cannot do their job from home should undertake a pregnancy risk assessment with their manager (see above) to consider their own personal circumstances. Where risks are identified, the risk assessment must set out what will be done to remove the risk(s). In line with existing legislation, where risks cannot be fully mitigated we believe that pregnant women should be placed on maternity suspension if alternative work cannot be found.

Download UNISON’s Covid guide for Pregnant Women

If you cannot work because the risk from Covid-19 in your workplace cannot be fully mitigated, and you can’t do your job from home, you are entitled to suspension on full pay. Not SSP or occupational sick pay.

You cannot be forced to start your maternity leave early (except within the last 4 weeks before your due date.

Pregnancy up to 28 weeks

Pregnant women are classed as being in the ‘clinically vulnerable’ group of workers. This means they must adhere to stringent social distancing at work. We believe that some workplaces or roles cannot adhere to stringent social distancing (such as providing personal care).

Our solicitors, Thompsons, have advised that pregnant women under 28 weeks’ gestation, with no underlying health conditions, should only attend a workplace if the pregnancy risk assessment advises that it is safe for them to do so. This means that if employers are fully compliant with requirements around pregnant workers, specifically the need to undertake risk assessments and make suitable adjustments, then these workers should be able to continue working. However, if it is not possible to remove or manage the risks, then these people should be offered suitable alternative work (including working from home) or suspended on their normal pay.

Pregnancy from 28 weeks

The advice from our solicitors is that the medical evidence suggests that there is an increased risk from Covid from 28 weeks gestation. Our advice is that pregnant women from 28 weeks onwards should not attend workplaces and should certainly not be undertaking any roles where they come into contact with other people.

Your pregnancy risk assessment should be updated at 28 weeks to take into account the additional risks and the medical evidence. You should either be redeployed to a role that can be done from home or placed on maternity suspension (in both cases without any loss of pay).

Pregnancy and furlough

Women who are pregnant can be furloughed, so long as the employer meets all the normal criteria as would be applied for any other worker.

Unless your employment contract states otherwise, you can only be furloughed on reduced pay with your agreement. In some cases, if your employer is only offering 80% of your normal wage you might be better being placed on maternity suspension as you would receive 100% of your normal wage (see above).

If you are furloughed on reduced pay, and your employer has only furloughed you and other pregnant women then this could be pregnancy discrimination and would be unlawful. You must contact us immediately if you think you are being treated differently because of your pregnancy.

Remember that you do not have to tell your employer that you are pregnant until 15 weeks before your due date.

Pregnant women with a serious heart condition or any other underlying health condition

Women who are pregnant and also have a serious heart condition or any other underlying health condition, are classed as being ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ and should follow the specific advice for this category.

During the current lockdown in England the advice for you is to stay at home and shield. You must not go to work.

If your employer is not following this advice please contact us using the online contact form. In these circumstances you should be placed on maternity suspension and continue to receive your normal pay.

UNISON Guide to Pregnancy Rights