In the first instance, when an employer has become aware that an employee is pregnant, a risk assessment must take place in line with UK Health and Safety regulations. Risk assessments will differ depending on the industry and both RCOG and RCOM have provided some guidance on how to deal with the risk assessments for pregnant women during the Covid-19 pandemic. Pregnant employees who have higher risk roles (healthcare professionals and care workers) should ensure that the risk assessment is appropriate for their level of exposure to the virus and Public Health England has also published guidance to assist employers. Pregnant women are considered clinically vulnerable (or in some cases clinically extremely vulnerable) to Covid-19 and therefore must follow stricter rules when it comes to safety in the workplace. The updated advice offers different recommendations for women who are less than 28 weeks pregnant with no underlying health conditions and those who are 28 weeks pregnant and beyond or with underlying health conditions.
As mentioned, a risk assessment must take place once the employee has notified the employer of their pregnancy which should be signed by both parties once completed. Should that assessment advise it is safe to continue working then the employee can continue working as normal. That is on the condition that the employer has made the workplace Covid-19 secure and also ensured social distancing is possible in all areas.
If it is not possible to remove or manage the risks then suitable alternative work should be offered or they should work from home if possible.
If they are unable to work from home and there is no alternative work then the employee should be suspended from work on their normal pay.
If an employee is 28 or more weeks pregnant or if they have an underlying health condition during any stage of their pregnancy, the rules differ as they are more at risk of being severely ill or of pre-term birth due to Covid-19.
Employers should support their employees to work from home, in a different capacity if possible.
If working from home is not possible then the employer must ensure that the workplace is Covid-19 secure and social distancing can be maintained at all times successfully. However, this option should be considered carefully for those who are extremely clinically vulnerable and have previously been told to shield. Working from home may be a more suitable alternative.
If working from home is not possible, there is no alternative work and the workplace cannot maintain social distancing, then the employee should be suspended from work on paid leave.
As an employer, this may be a good time to re-assess your current pregnancy risk assessments and ensure that they comply with the above if you have not already done so. And if you are a pregnant employee, it is important that you request a risk assessment as soon as possible from your employer to ensure you do not put yourself at risk.
The advice may change in future and as always we will be here to provide regular updates. Should you require any further advice or would like any further assistance on the matter, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Employment Law team.
Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.