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Pregnant Women at Work and Coronavirus

Last Updated: 28 March

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. I’m pregnant do I still have to go into work?
As Public Health guidance strongly advises pregnant women and other vulnerable workers such as those with specific underlying health problems and those aged over 70 to work from home (see link below), your employer must allow you to work from home wherever possible. If it isn’t possible for you to do your current job at home your manager should discuss with you whether there is any other work they can give you (that is both suitable and appropriate) for you to do at home.


Q. What if I can’t do my job from home?
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 and 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. 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 they either find you 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. What if my job doesn’t expose me to an increased risk of infection but it still isn’t practical for me to work from home?
Speak to your manager. Your employer should have guidance and procedures in place to protect and support pregnant women workers. You should ensure that you follow the procedures in your workplace and raise any queries with your manager or Usdaw rep.

In the absence of a specific policy or procedure where it isn’t practical for you to do your job from home and your job does not expose you to an increased risk of infection, you will need to consider the following options:
  • New Statutory Sick Pay regulations say that you can be treated as being incapable of work (even if you are well enough to work) if you are isolating yourself in order to avoid coronavirus infection following guidance published by Public Health England, NHS Scotland or Public Health Wales and you are unable to work. This also applies if you are isolating yourself because of advice by your GP, midwife or NHS 111. You can get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day one of your incapacity for work or any contractual sick pay that your employer provides.
  • Ask your employer if you can take annual leave
  • Ask for unpaid leave (but see below)
If you are on SSP or unpaid leave during the qualifying period for Statutory Maternity Pay, approx. weeks 18 – 26 of your pregnancy, you may lose some or all of your SMP so try to take annual leave during this period if possible, if paid leave isn’t available.

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 £118 pw (£120 pw from 5th April 2020) 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 £118 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.

(This factsheet was prepared with the kind assistance of Maternity Action.)

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