New expert guidance clarifies what employers’ responsibility is to pregnant women workers.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists [RCOG] has published updated guidance on health and safety for pregnant women during the coronavirus pandemic, clarifying that pregnant women should only continue working in direct patient-facing roles when they have had a proper risk assessment.
The guidance also clarifies that all pregnant women should have a risk assessment about the risk of continuing work, carried out by a person appointed by their employer, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Campaign group Maternity Action welcomed the new guidance, saying: “The new RCOG guidance makes a clear delineation between clinical guidance and the law. Employers must act to protect women’s health at work throughout their pregnancy, not just in the final trimester.”
Ros Bragg from Maternity Action stated: “All employers should review their approach to pregnant workers to make sure they are complying with the law. They must undertake a risk assessment for every pregnant woman they employ and must offer home working or other safe working conditions, or else suspend on full pay. Alternatively, they can offer pregnant women furlough on 80% salary.”
She added: “Over the past few weeks, our advice lines have been swamped by extremely distressed pregnant women who have been wrongly pressurised to work in unsafe, public-facing roles. Many other women have been forced onto badly paid or unpaid leave rather than being offered safe work or paid suspension, as required by law.
“Employers who ignore their health and safety obligations don’t just put the lives of pregnant women and their babies at risk, they also risk damage to reputation. The furlough scheme provides Government funding for staff who are not working, so there are no financial barriers to placing pregnant women on leave.”