Pregnant workers and COVID-19

If you are pregnant the government has issued “strong advice” that you should work from home, if possible and be particularly stringent about ‘social distancing’ during the coronavirus pandemic.

See the government’s advice for vulnerable people

There’s an existing legal framework that employers must follow regarding pregnant employees (and breastfeeding mothers).

Employers must assess the workplace risks for pregnant employees and their unborn children, and breastfeeding mothers who have returned to work.

Your employer should therefore consider allowing you to work from home. If your job isn’t suitable for home working then your employer should consider whether you can be temporarily re-deployed to a role that would allow home working for the duration of this crisis, on full pay.

If working from home isn’t an option then your employer should undertake a risk assessment to identify any additional steps they need to take, such as providing you with additional personal protective equipment and ensuring social distancing measures are in place.

They should also consider reallocating some of your duties or offering you alternative employment at the same rate of pay if available

If none of this is possible, because of the risks caused by COVID-19, they must suspend you from work on full pay for as long as necessary.

Your full pay should be based on your usual earnings, not pay based on your contractual hours.

If you are absent from work for maternity-related reasons (ie risks to pregnancy caused by COVID-19) the period of Ordinary Maternity Leave automatically begins 6 weeks before the expected week of confinement.

Pregnant women should not be placed on sick pay.

Local government employers have acknowledged that in some cases they will need to allow staff who can’t work from home to stay at home on full pay.

Read more on our COVID-19 advice for local government staff page

If your employer won’t let you work from home contact your local UNISON branch for help.

If there is no specific health and safety risk but your employer is affected for example by a lack of demand or they are carrying out non-essential work, they may consider putting you on ‘furlough’.

See our guidance on furloughed workers for more information.

If you feel you have been discriminated against due to your pregnancy then contact your branch for advice.

If you’re pregnant with a heart condition

If you are pregnant and also have a heart condition you should have received a letter from the government about “shielding”.

The government is strongly advising people in this category to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact.

Your employer must suspend you from work on full pay for as long as necessary to protect your health and safety or that of your baby. Your full pay should be based on your usual earnings, not pay based on your contractual hours.

You may have additional rights under the Equality Act 2010 if you are disabled as well as being pregnant.

Speak to your UNISON branch if you think your employer is not following the guidance.

If you are pregnant and also have a heart condition but you have not received the letter, contact your GP by phone.