Urgent clarification sought for pregnant women during coronavirus pandemic

Maternity Action is seeking much clearer guidance on the position of pregnant women during the coronavirus outbreak and protection from dismissal for those forced to self-isolate.



The Government is being urged to provide urgent clarification of its coronavirus-related advice on social distancing for pregnant women and to take immediate steps to mitigate the potentially significant financial consequences for low-income pregnant women who follow the advice and self-isolate.

At his press conference yesterday, the Prime Minister and his advisers clearly included pregnant women among those particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 who should self-isolate for 12 weeks, starting this coming weekend.

However, the written Guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK and protecting older people and vulnerable adults, later issued by Public Health England and published on gov.uk, makes no mention of this 12-week period.

Maternity Action has written to the Government to request clarification, pointing out that pregnant women are, by definition, operating within a fixed, 39-week time frame, so require clearer and more specific guidance on whether – and if so when – to self-isolate. They also, it says, require similarly clear and specific guidance on attendance for scans and other antenatal care while in 12 weeks (or more) of self-isolation.

Maternity Action says it is clear from calls to its advice lines that there is widespread confusion and anxiety among pregnant women about the guidance. It is calling on ministers to make a clear public statement that the dismissal of a pregnant woman simply for self-isolating, in line with the Government’s advice, would amount to unlawful pregnancy discrimination.

It also urges ministers to take immediate steps to mitigate the potential financial consequences for pregnant women who follow the Government’s advice and self-isolate. It says that, given the low level of Statutory Sick Pay, such women risk losing entitlement to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), should their average income fall below the SMP qualifying threshold (the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week) during the eight-week SMP qualifying period (weeks 18-26 of the pregnancy).

It says that this would deny them six weeks at 90% pay and that, due to the inequitable treatment of SMP and Maternity Allowance in the calculation of Universal Credit awards, it could result in those who claim Universal Credit and Maternity Allowance being up to £460 per month worse off than those who are able to claim Universal Credit and SMP, who benefit from the ‘earnings disregard’. It calculates that this amounts to a disadvantage of more than £4,100 over 39 weeks of maternity leave.

Maternity Action is also calling for an increase in the level of Statutory Sick Pay, an amendment to the Statutory Maternity Pay (General) Regulations 1986, so as to widen eligibility for pregnant women who are not receiving their normal (or expected) earnings as a direct result of the COVID-19 epidemic; and an amendment to the Universal Credit Regulations 2013, so that Maternity Allowance is treated in the same way as SMP in the calculation of Universal Credit awards, with claimants on Maternity Allowance benefiting from the ‘earnings disregard’ (i.e. the ‘work allowance’ and 63% earnings taper rate).

Comments [78]

  • Safaa says:


    I am currently 7 months pregnant being furloughed by 2 teaching supply agencies. I can no longer return to work as my BP is playing up. Although summer holidays will have started, do I need to let my agencies know that I will not return to work for agency and that they should stop my furlough payments?

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, if you are employed by the agencies, have you informed them of your pregnancy eg via a MATB1 form where you tell them when you intended to start your maternity leave?

  • Lauren working says:

    I found out last week I am 5 weeks pregnant – I’m currently furloughed from work and feel incredibly anxious that if I tell my manager they may make me redundant. Is that a possibility? I feel hesitant to tell them about it until we return to work – but at the same time I feel they need to know for when we return to work because I should be social distancing? So hard to know what to do! Any advice?

  • Nikki says:

    I’m hoping someone might be able to help me and give me a little advice .
    I’m 37 weeks pregnant and my was supposed to start my maternity leave at the end of the month. Due to the current situation I was unable to go to work as I’m unable to work from home . With the government advising to be isolated for 12 weeks and being on furlough . How will this effect my maternity leave start date . Will this change it . I’m a little confused and need some advice .

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, you would still go on maternity leave as before. You are not entitled to normal pay during maternity leave so you cannot receive furlough pay during your maternity leave. If you want to stop receiving your maternity pay you will need to give notice to end your maternity leave and pay but this would mean you would have to return to work when furlough ends [it is currently for three months].

  • Flo says:

    Hi all
    I’m abit confused..
    My wife is pregnant 9 weeks, the company where she work send her home..
    The company pay her sick..£95 week…
    It’s that ok???
    Thanks all

    • Mandy Garner says:

      As pregnant women (at whatever stage of pregnancy) are classed as vulnerable under the Coronavirus Restrictions Regulations your wife’s employer must ensure that she can work from home where possible, avoid public transport and keep a 2m distance from others. If it is not possible to avoid the risks by taking such action, her employer must provide suitable alternative work, if available, on the same terms and conditions or suspend her on full pay. They could also consider furloughing her. I am not sure why they have put her on sick pay. Has she had any kind of sickness?

  • Emma says:

    I’ve just been placed on furloughed pay having been back at work for around 10 weeks after being on Maternity Leave and my pay varies by a few hours each week. Does my SMP affect the calculation of my furloughed pay or should it be calculated based on the few weeks I have been back?

    • Mandy Garner says:

      For regular salaried employees, employers should base calculations on actual salary before tax, as at 28 February 2020

      • Emma says:

        Hi Mandy, Thanks for your response. I’m not on a salary, my hours vary week by week. Would this still be the case?

      • Jessie mcgregor says:

        Hi, I am already on mat leave, I get 100% pay for 3 months and then SMP till I return. I’m one month into my mat leave, my company called me today to tell me they want to furlough me,
        However can they do this, as on furlough I only get 80% of my wage rather than the 3 months at 100%?

        • Mandy Garner says:

          Government guidance says that women can be on furlough AND maternity leave in order for employers to recoup the costs of occupational maternity pay. However, you are only entitled to your statutory or occupational maternity pay during your maternity leave as there is no entitlement to normal remuneration (salary) during maternity leave.

          If you want to receive 80% of pay on furlough you will need to give notice to end your maternity leave. You must take a minimum of 2 weeks’ compulsory maternity leave. You should bear in mind that the furlough scheme could end at any time and if you have given notice to end your maternity leave you cannot go back onto maternity leave. See https://maternityaction.org.uk/covidmaternityfaqs/furlough/

          • Jessie Mcgregor says:

            Thank you for your reply. But can you confirm, as I am on 100% pay for 3 months for long service at my company, this is the policy. So if I’m put on furlough you are saying I will only get sat pay?
            Is the company not obligated to pay the ‘top up’ to 100% to adhere to the policy?

          • Mandy Garner says:

            The information from Maternity Action says you should get occupational maternity pay unless you request to come off maternity leave.

  • Liz says:

    Hi, I am currently 2 months pregnant with my 1st child. I am currently a community carer and was advised by 111 NHS to self isolate. Due to the nature of my job, walking from house to house every half an hour, going to the shops multiple times to get shopping, working with basic equipment and with many staff and different members of other households who come to care.

    My work have told me that I am before 28 weeks pregnant there for I can come to work and if I have ‘choosen’ to take 111 NHS advice I wont be paid.

    What should I do?

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, The Govt advice is to work from home if at all possible. If this is not possible, as in your case, they recommend social distancing. It sounds as if this might not be possible for you either. This applies to all pregnant women – See https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/guidelines/coronavirus-pregnancy/covid-19-virus-infection-and-pregnancy/. The advice on the Maternity Action website says: Government guidance advises that all pregnant women, as well as those with underlying health conditions, should work from home if possible, avoid public transport and avoid social contact.

      Your employer must continue to follow health and safety regulations and consider the risks during your pregnancy. For more Government information on health and safety at work, see: https://www.hse.gov.uk/mothers/faqs.htm If your job is in a public or patient-facing role or you work in a large office and have an increased risk of infection, your employer must carry out a risk assessment and take action – see Health and safety section above.

      If your employer is not able to make reasonable adjustments to ensure you can work in a safe environment away from others, your employer must provide suitable alternative work (on the same terms and conditions) such as working from home. If there is no suitable alternative work and you are not able to do your job from home, your employer must suspend you on full pay. Failure to suspend you on full pay if there are increased risks of infection at your workplace may be pregnancy discrimination.

  • Paige says:

    Im still slightly confused as there is so much conflicting information going around, im 4 months pregnant – a care assistant in a residential home – I have had 2 weeks off due to my son being ill ( turned out to be tonsillitis ) am I able to go back to work as I’ve technically self isolated for two weeks or am i supposed to be self isolating for 12 weeks?? As on the gov site it just states only pregnant ladies with heart conditions are to isolate for 12 weeks? But im being told else where i can go back to work?

  • CR says:

    Hi there,

    I am currently pregnant and due to start maternity leave in June.

    However I have now been told my role is to be furloughed until further notice meaning that my earnings will be capped at the £2500 limit.

    Does this mean that the first weeks of my maternity will now be calculated on the lower earnings?

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, If you are talking about SMP, the qualification period is the eight weeks leading up to the end of the 26th week of pregnancy. You will get 90% of your average earnings in this period.

  • Leanne yates says:

    Hi I am 30 weeks pregnant and I was Told from my boss he had covered all my shifts the day after Boris Johnson announced pregnant women should stay home for 12 weeks but they are saying they won’t pay me 80% of my wages until I get a letter from the government, my maternity doesn’t start until mid May so basically have to go without money for 6 weeks which seems totally unfair, thankfully my husband work but that is high risk as it’s a care home

  • Aimee says:

    My maternity leave starts on the 1st of May and I had holiday days taken throughout April. I have been put on furlough by my work and have been told I am no longer to use my holidays and I will only be entitled to 80% until June and then statutory after that. The initial agreement was I get paid 12 weeks full pay while on maternity but they have now said I am not entitled to this, is this right ? Shouldn’t I be entitled to maternity pay while on maternity leave ?

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, It would depend on your employer’s maternity scheme and how pay is worked out. For SMP it is based on average earnings in the 8 weeks to the end of the 26th week of pregnancy. Have they made a change for everyone due to the pandemic?

      • Aimee says:

        Hi. They have made a change to the people pregnant in my office and the people who are on sick. Everyone else is working from home on full pay. They said I will get SMP from a June but 80% until then from April however I believe I should be entitled to full maternity pay from May as agreed in my contract

      • Aimee Louise says:

        Hi. They have put me on furlough and another lady due to go on maternity and people who are off sick. Everyone else is working from home on full pay. They have said I will be getting 80% from April – June then statutory after that. Surely I am entitled to maternity pay as agreed on my contract ?

  • Zoey says:

    I am currently on maternity leave and my smp runs out the second week in June, ordinarily I would have returned in June. However, with the covid situation I will not be able to return as at present all staff are working from home and I haven’t been provided with the necessary equipment to work, on top of that l cannot access childcare as my provider is shut untill further notice if the situation were that I go in to work … would I be entitled to the 80% that the government are issuing ? What do I do in this situation?

  • Michael bott says:

    Hi Mandy

    My wife was planning to return to work after easter following her maternity leave. The school she works in however closed before she had any meeting with the school to confirm her return date. Does she have any rights to be paid from them if the school remains closed post easter? If not does she have any options as her maternity pay has stopped and she is currently on zero income? Thanks

  • Amy says:

    Hi, I am 18 weeks pregnant and due to advice from government I am self isolating and on leave from work. I was going to go on SSP but work are saying I need a sick note, I cannot get a sick note as doctors are not giving them out for covid 19. So I am technically looking at being on sick leave with no pay. Do I need a sick note? And will SSP effect my maternity allowance? Thank you

  • Working mum says:

    Hi I’m currently on statutory maternity pay and my colleagues are off on full pay – is there anything extra I can claim as this doesn’t seem fair ? Also I wanted to do my KIT days but now cannot am
    I entitled to be paid for these ? Also I have been told I have to give 8 weeks notice of my return date which I cannot do as they have shut down . Where do I stand on this ? Thank you

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, You can go to http://www.turn2us.org.uk to check if you are entitled to any extra benefits. This is an unprecedented situation – hence the furloughed worker scheme to protect jobs. KIT days are not compulsory and have to be agreed by the individual and the employer. On the 8 weeks’ notice the best thing is to file the notice and then you can update this when there is greater clarity over what is happening.

  • clare barry says:

    My daughter is 16 weeks pregnant and self isolating for 12 weeks as government guidelines. She is so worried about how she is going to be paid, as she lives on her own and has a mortgage. Would she be entitled to 80% of her pay through the furlong scheme or would it be SWP? as SWP would mean that she won’t get any maternity pay?

  • E says:

    I am 32 weeks pregnant and currently still working.
    If I was to stop work due to self isolating like advised what would I be entitled to? Would I have to take my maternity leave early?
    Would going on sick pay then reduce what maternity pay I get when I start maternity end of May?
    It’s not very clear at all.

  • Eleri Hughes says:

    Hi, I’ve recently found out that I’m pregnant and work as an agencý nurse. I’m paid via PAYE however have a 0 hour contract. Obviously I’m not able to work right now due to the corona virus, I wondered if I’m entitled to more than statutory sick pay??

    Many thanks

  • vicky says:

    I am 15 week pregnant, I am a nursing assistant in a care home. I have been told I am no longer allowed to work, due to being in the high risk category. I am concerned financially, as I live and rent alone. If I wanted to go back to work before the 12 week isolation period, then can I? As if I only get payed the SSP of £100 a week, it is just not practical. What am I entitled too?

  • Sharon Yates says:

    My Daughter is on maternity leave until September. When the 80% pay rule comes out in June will she get 80% of full pay, maternity pay or nothing extra at all?

  • Beth Melissa says:

    Hi there.
    I am currently on maternity leave.
    I am entitled to work 10 KIT days which I had hoped to do after Easter since I am now on SMP. Whilst my school is not operating at full capacity at the moment, teachers are still being paid their full wage but working from home and working on a rota basis.
    I have contacted HR but they are unable to advise. Do you know if I am still able to ‘work’ these KIT days in some capacity.

    Also, I was hoping to return to work in the last two weeks of term before the summer break which another colleague has met with the head and this has been agreed for her. I have not yet had my back to work meeting but hope that I am able to do the same but with the current situation I’m not sure where I stand with this.

    If you are able to offer guidance on either of these areas it would be much appreciated.

    Thank you

  • Sarah chapman says:

    Hi I’m a cleaner at a private college and have been told I am not at risk whilst im there but do have to travel on bus to get there I’m 26 weeks pregnant but dont know where i stand if start to self isolate would i get paid and would it effect my maternity pay if i do self isolate

    • Mandy Garner says:

      If you are an employee, you should have a right to stay at home for health & safety reasons if you are pregnant, especially if you are under greater risk at work than in the normal outside world. They should offer you alternative work or adjust your work to remove risk or otherwise put you on paid leave. If not, you don’t have the right to full pay if you stay at home, but could receive Statutory Sick Pay.

  • Heidi says:

    I am extremely concerned about the statutory sick pay as i am isolating now at 18 weeks as advised and I know this is going to affect my statutory maternity pay. I will not qualify for it can someone please help? I’m so anxious and nervous because we have been advised to do one thing and penalised for it! Surely they need to change the policy during this pandemic and calculate your earnings whilst you’ve been at work before this happened?
    Please help anyone
    Thank you

  • BC says:

    I am currently on maternity leave. I know these are tough times and mitigating circumstances however I can not help but feel aggrieved that my colleagues who are also key workers like me are literally working a day a week and getting paid a full week whilst I am on ‘maternity leave’ and only getting paid 50% my wage. I feel, inadvertently, at a disadvantage financially. Where would I potentially stand with this? Ie extending leave past the 52 weeks to compensate for this time not really being maternity leave comparative to others. I really dont mean to sound selfish however just feel at a disadvantage.
    Thank you

    • Mandy Garner says:

      These are very unprecedented circumstances and your colleagues are putting themselves at risk by being in contact with the public. I am not sure what you mean that the time is not really maternity leave. Maternity leave has presumably not changed. It is just that the working schedule has changed for those who are not on maternity leave.

      • New mum says:

        Hi I’m in the same situation I’m off on statutory and my colleagues off for 12 weeks on full pay doesn’t seem fair also I have lost out on doing KIT days may be worth a Petition to government but no idea where to start !

  • Sara says:

    Hi, i have been told that i can’t work because i need letter from my midwife that i am able to work. But she can’t give it to me. They didn’t mention anything about pay. They can pay me £94 now or they should give me full pay?

  • Ashley McColgan says:

    I am 23 weeks 5 days pregnant. My work contract states that maternity pay will be 90% for 6 months then down to SMP after that. My work gave said today that I can no longer work but I will be getting paid full pay still (80% from government 20% topped up by them). However as they have said I am not working will this effect my maternity?

    • Mandy Garner says:

      If they are continuing to pay you and you are still employed and you meet the eligibility criteria [earning an average of over 118 a week in the eight weeks up to the 26th week of pregnancy] you should be ok.

  • Flavia says:

    I’m 26 week pregnant and I have applied for sick leave saying self isolation due to pregnancy so dey will pay me 80% of my salary.

  • Em says:

    Okay I’m really confused. I’m currently 6 weeks 4 days pregnant. I’m trying not to go out other than for work. I’m a nursery nurse so have to face people everyday and although nursery is closed I’m still working for the networker children. Now my question is should I be in self isolation for 12 weeks or just social distancing. Everywhere says different. Sorry and thank you

  • Kerry Denyer says:

    I cant self isolate asi have been told my maternity pay will be reflected on how much I earn from week 18- 25( I am 18 weeks) i do think this is fair

    • Mandy Garner says:

      SMP is calculated on the average weekly earnings in the 8 weeks up to the end of the 26th week of pregnancy so if you are off sick and on SSP that will affect eligibility for SMP. Pregnancy campaigners have been highlighting this.

  • Arabella Pascall says:

    Does anyone have any info/advice for women on maternity leave?
    This is my last month of smp I’m a waitress and was due to go back to work next week but because we f the corona virus I’ve no job to go back to right now so zero money being paid. My partner started a new job 2 weeks ago and although for now his job is ‘safe’ who knows what the future holds for any of us.
    Yesterday I tried and failed to get through to anyone I could think of for advice but you just get cut off even citizens advice were not picking up so if anybody has any info it would be greatly appreciated

    • Mandy Garner says:

      What kind of contract are you on? Have you been made redundant? You need to check with your employer if you are an employee to see if they can claim compensation if you are unable to work due to coronavirus.

  • Shelley smith says:

    im 28 weeks pregnant a diabetic on insuline.my work dont pay sick pay.And 90 pound dont help cover bills so im having to carry on working.nothing is very clear and im scared about the outcome when i go on maternity leave.

  • Sarah McLaughlin says:

    This is a worrying time for all I’m aware,but as a dental nurse I’m at a big risk and cannot work from home. Self isolating for the sake of my unborn child should not be penalised for me further down the line when I go on may leave. Already SMP is low. We already loosing our ability to save for this by being off on stat sick pay. This is stressful enough without having further financial implications when it is over.

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