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Pregnant Women at Work and Coronavirus

Last Updated: 23 September

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. I’m pregnant do I still have to go into work?
Public Health guidance advises that pregnant women and other vulnerable workers (such as those with specific underlying health problems and those aged over 70) can now return to the workplace, so long as your workplace has Covid-secure measures in place. However, significant and specific legal protections exist for pregnant women which means their employers must make sure they can be protected – and you should have an individual risk assessment for your role.  The right to an individual risk assessment applies to all pregnant women, regardless of what stage of their pregnancy they are in. The risk assessment must take into account:
  • Your job
  • Any pre-existing health conditions you might have
  • Risks posed by your journey from work
  • How far it is possible for you to maintain 2m social distance and minimise social contact
If you cannot be kept safe from the virus while in your usual role, you may agree with your manager to make adjustments to your role, or in some cases you may be asked to work from home – this may be carrying out work that is not your usual work so long as it is both suitable and appropriate.
If you cannot be kept safe at work, and you cannot work from home, you may need to be suspended on full pay until either you are found a suitable alternative role or for as long as it is necessary for you to avoid the increased risk of infection. This is known as ‘maternity suspension’.

If you have any workplace health and safety concerns talk to your Usdaw rep or full time official..

Q. How will my employer support me?
Usdaw has been working with employers to ensure that the health and wellbeing of all members is protected. A number of the companies with whom we have agreements have adjusted their policies and procedures and in several instances have gone above and beyond what is currently required of them by law.

It is therefore very important that you inform your manager of your pregnancy as soon as possible. Ask your manager for guidance and details of their policy on pregnancy/vulnerable groups during coronavirus and follow their procedures.

In the absence of written guidance or a specific policy on supporting pregnant women and other vulnerable workers, where your job puts you at an increased risk of exposure to coronavirus (for example if you are working in a customer facing role) during your pregnancy, then your employer must follow the steps listed below, including offering you a suitable alternative job. Where this is not possible you have the right to be suspended from work with pay.

Step 1 If it is reasonable and it avoids the risk of infection you have the right to have your working conditions or hours of work altered.

Step 2 If these adjustments aren’t possible or they won’t make a difference to your increased risk of exposure to infection, then your employer must offer you suitable, alternative work which is appropriate for you to do in all circumstances. This may be in the workplace, or at home. It must be on terms and conditions that are not substantially different to those of your current role. Any alternative role the employer offers you must be safe and appropriate for you to do.

Step 3 If your employer is unable to provide you with suitable, alternative work, then you have the right to be suspended with pay until you are either found a suitable, alternative role or for as long as it is necessary for you to avoid the increased risk of infection. This is known as ‘maternity suspension’.

Q. Can I be dismissed for refusing to come into work during the pandemic?
It is important to keep in touch with your employer so that they are aware of the reason for your absence and so that you are not regarded as absent without leave. Ask your employer for their policy on the action they are taking to protect pregnant and other vulnerable workers during the pandemic.

Q. Will I qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay?
In order to qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) you need to have average weekly earnings of at least £120 pw in the 8 weeks before the 15th week before your baby is due. If you are paid monthly, you need to look at your average weekly earnings in the 2 months before the 15th week before your baby is due. This period is when you are approximately 18 to 26 weeks pregnant. In addition to earning above the Lower Earnings Limit in the relevant 8 weeks (see above) you must also:
  • Have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the week in which your baby is due; and
  • You need to be employed for at least one day in the 15th week before the week in which baby is due. If you are off sick, your workplace has temporarily closed or you are staying at home as per Government advice you will still be counted as being employed even though you are not actually in work.
You can use the online calculator here to see if you qualify for SMP.

Q. Do I have to give my employer notice of when I want my maternity leave and pay to start?
You must give your employer, or agency, notice of when you want to start your maternity leave and pay by the 15th week before your baby is due. You will also need to give them your MATB1 maternity certificate which you can get once you’re 20 weeks pregnant. In view of the pressure on NHS services you may need to telephone your midwife or GP and ask if they can send your MATB1 to you.

To find out more about maternity pay as well as your rights at work during pregnancy and other benefits take a look at Usdaw’s comprehensive Maternity and Parental Rights Guide.

Q. I don’t qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay because my earnings are too low – what can I claim instead?
If you are on Statutory Sick Pay or your average contractual earnings are less than £120 per week when you are approximately 18 – 26 weeks pregnant don’t worry, you can claim Maternity Allowance instead.

To qualify for Maternity Allowance you need to show that you have been employed or self-employed for at least 26 weeks out of the 66 weeks before your baby is due. If you are employed, you will also be asked to send in payslips covering a 13 week period. It doesn’t need to be 13 works in a row. It can be any 13 weeks in your 66 week test period. You should send in payslips with your highest earnings, not weeks in which you were paid Statutory Sick Pay or where you only worked your contractual hours.

You can claim Maternity Allowance here. You can send the claim form in once you are 26 weeks pregnant.

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