Post-lockdown rights for pregnant women

HR expert Anna Ives gives some up-to-date advice on pregnant women’s rights during the coronavirus pandemic.



HR expert Anna Ives will be co-hosting a webinar, From Mat Leave to Flex Working + Redundancies in COVID-19, with executive and health coach Anya Smirnova on 4th June at 8-9pm, including information on pregnant women’s rights. The event comes after concerns were raised about maternity pay following news that many women were being sent home on sick pay, annual leave or unpaid leave – something that is likely to have had an impact on their maternity payment. Women often face a double whammy because, if they do not qualify for SMP due to reduced pay during the qualifying period [the eight weeks to the 26th week of pregnancy], they are also likely to lose out on Universal Credit payments. asked her about what the latest guidance says about pregnant women’s rights. What is the guidance on pregnant women returning to the workplace and risk? 

Anna Ives: Employers must assess all workplaces to ensure they are safe, which includes issues related to the protection of pregnant women and new mothers. They must follow Government guidance (including social distancing) for COVID-19 and a risk assessment must be carried out. Pregnant women are classed as vulnerable under the Coronavirus Restrictions Regulations. Employers must make additional adjustments and ensure you can work from home, avoid public transport and social distance. If it is not possible to avoid any of these then alternative work needs to be found, on the same terms and conditions. If that is not possible then you have the right to be suspended on full pay or placed on furlough.

wms: Can you say no if you have to commute on public transport?

Anna: Avoiding public transport is one of the three rules for pregnant women, so if you are unable to avoid public transport to get to work then your employer needs to find alternative means, such as working from home or being placed on furlough. If this is not possible then you are able to say no to going to work.

wms: If you have a higher risk pregnancy and cannot work from home what are your rights?

Anna: Your employer must not put you or your baby’s health at risk. You should also speak your doctor or midwife for confirmation. This is the same advice as above, and a risk assessment must be carried out.

wms: Will SMP and Maternity Allowance be affected by furlough or closure due to coronavirus?

Anna: If you employer has to close the business and furlough employees then you are still entitled to SMP and MA. However, you cannot receive furlough pay and SMP/ MA at the same time. One must stop and you then start the other. You can receive furlough pay then start maternity leave. It will not affect your entitlement.

wms: Can women extend their maternity leave if they find they have no childcare in place as they are coming up to the end?

Anna: You can be asked to be placed on furlough if you do not have childcare and cannot work from home. If you are refused because you have been on maternity leave then that can be maternity discrimination. You cannot extend your maternity leave. However, you could give notice to take parental leave.

wms: What can you do if you don’t have sufficient time to give notification?

Anna: You need to give 28 days notice of a change on your return to work date. That is 28 days before you also are due to return to work. If you are not able to give this much notice then you need to speak to your employer.

*More information on redundancy and maternity rights can be found here.

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