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MPs have written to the Government calling for it to clarify urgently that pregnant women who cannot work from home should be suspended on full pay or furloughed.
MPs from seven parties wrote to the Prime Minister, calling for clear guidance to employers on how to protect their pregnant employees during the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter states that the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday has further muddied the waters around pregnant women’s rights, a situation it says began on 16th March when the Government said pregnant women should be classified as vulnerable and should self-isolate.
The MPs, from the SNP, Labour, Lib Dems, Green Party, Plaid Cymru, the DUP and the SDLP, say this was not followed up with advice to employers on what pregnant employees’ rights are in the situation. Maternity Action and Working Families say they have taken many calls from distressed pregnant employees, particularly those who are under 28 weeks pregnant [due to clinical guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
The MPs say many women were sent home on sick pay, annual leave or unpaid leave following the 16th March statement, something that is likely to have had an impact on their maternity payment, and have stayed on this despite colleagues being on furlough. Women who do not qualify for SMP due to reduced pay during the qualifying period [the eight weeks to the 26th week of pregnancy] also lose out on Universal Credit payments. The MPs say women on MA and Universal Credit can be up to £5K worse off than women on SMP in the same position.
The letter also says that the lack of mention of pregnancy in the furlough scheme guidance means many employers are rejecting women’s claims for furlough on the grounds that furlough is only available if an employer is closed.
The letter states that it is “imperative” that the Government makes it clear that pregnant women who cannot work from home should be suspended on full pay or furloughed.