Return to work during Coronavirus – but I’m pregnant!
In the past month, many UK workplaces have re-opened their doors to employees with many more planning to in the coming weeks. Most employers are now encouraging the return of employees into the workplace, either those who have been working from home, or being re-engaged from Furlough leave, either on a full-time or part-time basis.
The Government’s current guidance is to return to work if we can – but what about pregnant employees? Shouldn’t they be shielding?
According to The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), pregnant women, especially in the latter part of pregnancy, should take social distancing very seriously to avoid infection, however the government’s guidance is that only acutely clinically-vulnerable people need to shield. This means pregnant women can return to work (unless they have underlying health conditions), as long as strict social distancing standards can be adhered to.
The NHS says: “There’s no evidence that pregnant women are more likely to get seriously ill from coronavirus. But pregnant women have been included in the list of people at moderate risk (clinically vulnerable) as a precaution.”
The RCOG says:
"Pregnant women should follow the latest government guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing) and avoid anyone who has symptoms suggestive of coronavirus. If a pregnant woman is in her third trimester (more than 28 weeks’ pregnant) she should be particularly attentive to social distancing."
Key RCOG advice for pregnant women during the pandemic includes:
Follow the guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing) and staying safe outside the home including appropriate use of face coverings for the general public and clinically vulnerable people, including pregnant women (this guidance covers England only - if you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you should follow the specific advice in those parts of the UK)
Keep mobile and hydrated to reduce the risk of blood clots in pregnancy
Vaishali Thakerar and Head of Employment at Lawson-West Solicitors based in Leicester:
For employers – discuss the return to work of pregnant employees in advance. Discuss with them their fears and concerns and put in place all the necessary precautions in the workplace that you can to help them. This might mean changing the office layout, moving desks, working from a different office location, or being flexible about a part-time or phased return. For pregnant women who refuse to return to the workplace during coronavirus for fear of contracting the virus or hurting their unborn child, they need to understand that there is no official government guidance to support this stance, unless of course, they have underlying health conditions to do with their pregnancy, or other illness, or they are personally shielding for health reasons. If they do continue to refuse to return to work, this could be a disciplinary matter and an employee could potentially face dismissal if they refuse to return.
See relevant news and articles:
Government – return to work safely
NHS - pregnancy and coronavirus