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GUIDANCE: Coronavirus / Covid-19: Advice for Pregnant Employees (11 January 2021)

Until recently, the guidance for pregnant workers was contained in a variety of sources.  The guidance can now be found in two Guides that each contain links to the various sources of information.

First, the Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland has produced a guide: HSENI Pregnancy & Workplace.  This deals with a number of issues and includes a section on Frequently Asked Questions that include:

  • What does an employer have to do if an employee tells you they are pregnant?
  • What measures within the workplace can increase Covid-19 safety
  • Does it matter what stage in the pregnancy a worker is at?
  • Can pregnant women return to work?
  • What is the advice for pregnant workers before 28 weeks’ gestation?
  • What is the advice for pregnant workers after 28 weeks’ gestation?

It also contains a list of useful links referencing Risk Assessments and further information from Equality Commission Northern Ireland and the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists.

Second, there is a UK wide Guidance Coronavirus / Covid-19: Advice for Pregnant Employees . This was also published on 11 January 2021 and again draws together the various sources into one document. The Guidance applies to England, Scotland, Wales & N. Ireland.

Key Points:

  • Pregnant women are considered ‘clinically vulnerable’ or in some cases ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’
  • A workplace risk assessment must be conducted on the specific risk of pregnant workers attending the workplace
  • Certain occupations and industries, for example those with greater public contact or in healthcare, may carry a higher risk of exposure to the virus
  • Pregnant workers must only continue working if the risk assessment advises safe that it is safe to do so
  • Employer must remove/manage risks identified in the risk assessment
  • If this cannot be done, the pregnant worker should be offered suitable alternative work or working arrangements (including home working) or be suspended on normal pay (maternity suspension)
  • After 28 weeks, employers should take an even more precautionary approach
  • All employers should consider redeploying and/or allowing pregnant workers 28 weeks or more to work from home, if possible
  • If adjustments to work environment/role are not possible and alternative work not found then the employee will be entitled to be put on a maternity suspension which is on full pay.

We recommend that you contact us you have specific questions about pregnant workers.  In particular, you should seek advice if you have conducted a risk assessment and taken steps taken to minimise or avoid those risks, but you identify an employee as being able to continue working.  You should also seek advice where you have a pregnant employee who has expressed concerns about continuing to work due to their pregnancy.