Quarter of pregnant women have faced bias during pandemic

A new TUC survey shows that one in four pregnant women have been discriminated against during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pregnant adult businesswoman working at her working place in office.

A quarter of pregnant women have faced discrimination at work during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a new TUC survey.

A poll of more than 3,400 women who have been pregnant or on maternity leave during the Covid-19 pandemic found that one in four had experienced unfair treatment at work, including being singled out for redundancy or furlough.

Of those surveyed, low-paid pregnant women (earning less than £23,000 a year) were much more likely (28%) than women on higher salaries (17%) to have been forced to lose pay and stop work.

Pregnant women told the TUC they were illegally required to take sick leave when they were not sick, to take unpaid leave, to start their maternity leave early or to leave the workplace, because their employer did not act to make their workplace safe for them.

Pregnant women have the right to be suspended on full pay if workplace risks to their health cannot be removed or reduced, or suitable alternative work is not available.

The TUC poll also exposed a range of health and safety concerns for women who have been pregnant during the coronavirus outbreak:

  • One in four of those surveyed told the TUC they felt unsafe at work
  • Two in five (42%) responding to the poll said they had not had a workplace health and safety risk assessment
  • Of those who had a risk assessment, almost half (46%) said their employer did not take the necessary action to reduce the risks identified – which is against the law – and a quarter (25%) said the risk assessment did not include the additional risks posed by Covid-19.

The TUC is calling on the government to change the law to protect new and expectant mums’ health and safety. Employers are already required to undertake a Covid-19 risk assessment, which should take account of additional risks to anyone who is pregnant or a new mum, but it wants this to be extended to require employers to undertake individual written risk assessments when they are informed that a woman who works for them is pregnant, has given birth in the past six months or is breastfeeding. This should include discussions with the woman involved, and if any risk is identified then it must be removed.

The TUC also wants government to make it clear to employers that if the risks facing a pregnant worker cannot be removed and there is no alternative work available, pregnant women have the right to be suspended from work on full pay. It calls on the Health and Safety Executive to enforce the law through spot checks and to encourage pregnant women to raise concerns with them, anonymously if necessary, with employers who break the law being subject to the full range of penalties, including fines.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Employers are routinely flouting health and safety law. This puts women’s lives – and the health of their unborn babies – at risk.

“Ministers must require every employer to do an individual risk assessment for every pregnant woman and new mum. If it’s not safe for women to keep working, employers must suspend them on full pay. Employers must stop illegally selecting pregnant women and new mums for redundancy. And bosses who break the law should be fined.”


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