Pregnant employees in the workplace during Covid-19

Pregnant women are classed as Clinically Vulnerable, not Clinically Extremely Vulnerable, and therefore the CV guidelines should be followed for pregnant employees.

Pregnancy and Covid-19 interrelated issues arise generally beyond 28 weeks of pregnancy, however the Government has not issued much by way of formal guidance to assist employers in navigating this period.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidance states that after 28 weeks the pregnant person should be ‘particularly attentive to social distancing’. There are practical steps to consider before asking a pregnant employee to attend the workplace. (National lockdown restrictions should be adhered to in any event.)

Risk Assessment

An employer has a duty to ensure there are suitable and sufficient risk assessments in place to assess hazards and risks and to introduce control measures. It may be pertinent to have an individual specific risk assessment in place for an employee beyond 28 weeks to ensure that an employer’s legal for health and safety duty is appropriately discharged. An employer’s risk assessment should be regularly monitored and updated.

Social Distancing

Whilst there are no mandatory requirements for social distancing which are specifically applicable to pregnant women, it should continue to be an important consideration within an employer’s risk assessment given the implications highlighted by the RCOG.

Where social distancing isn’t possible, for example with school staff employees, it may be appropriate to put in adjustments. One that might be possible to consider in schools is requiring students and/or the teacher to wear masks during the pregnant employee’s lessons which will reduce the risk to the employee.

Any adjustments made should be documented in any risk assessment including the details.

Doctors Note

It is possible that the employee may obtain a doctor’s note to the affect that the pregnant employee ‘should not be at work after the 28-week mark’. If this were the case, a medical note should take precedence here and the employee should not be required to work.

If no doctor’s note is produced by the employee, it may be prudent for an employer to get Occupational Health involved ahead of the 28-week mark and listen to their guidance for the particular employee. It is likely that a doctor may say an employee after 28 weeks should not be required to come into work in line with the RCOG.

Working from Home

Assessing the risks above, an employer may want to explore the possibility of the employee working from home. If this is possible, appropriate equipment should be provided to enable the employee to effectively work from home.

If this is not possible, an employee can stay at home on full pay on the grounds of a risk to an expectant mother. If the employee was still absent up to first day of the fourth week prior to the expected week of childbirth then her maternity leave will automatically start the day after as she is absent for a reason wholly due to her pregnancy.

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

The Legal 500 - The Clients Guide to Law Firms

UK Chambers logo

Best Companies - One to watch logo

Cyber Essentials Certification Logo