News - Protection of pregnant women at work during the Covid-19 pandemic (Maternity Action Group)

- Rebecca Tuck QC, Ijeoma Omambala QC, Melanie Tether, Eleena Misra

End unsafe treatment of pregnant women at work, say senior lawyers

Pregnant women in public-facing roles should be offered suitable alternative work or suspended on full pay, say a group of senior lawyers working on maternity and parental rights.  The lawyers, members of Maternity Action’s Legal Working Group, released a briefing outlining women’s rights under health and safety legislation in the context of the COVID-19 ‘lockdown’.

Katie Wood, Senior Legal Officer at Maternity Action, said:

“Every day on our advice lines, we are hearing from distressed pregnant women who have been directed to work in public-facing roles despite the risk of infection.  Health and safety law does not permit pregnant women to be in roles which carry a greater risk than they would face outside the workplace.  The law is the same no matter how many weeks pregnant they are.

Employers should stop telling pregnant women to work on supermarket checkouts or in public-facing roles in health and care during the Covid lockdown. 

Government should provide guidance which complies with the law so that pregnant women and their employers understand their rights and obligations. Women should not risk dismissal or disciplinary action for asserting their right to a safe working environment.”

Rebecca Tuck QC, who is on the legal committee of Maternity Action, says:

“Employers must follow health and safety and employment laws, even when it impacts adversely on their business – or on the provision of key services.  Health and safety protections are poorly understood and Government guidance is badly needed to address this.”

Rebecca Tuck QC, Ijeoma Omambala QC, Melanie Tether and Eleena Misra contributed towards the briefing. To view it, please click here.

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