Government must protect health and jobs of pregnant workers, says TUC

Union body says pregnant workers who follow government advice and stay at home during the coronavirus outbreak should be paid in full 

The TUC is today (Thursday) calling on the government to protect the health, jobs and income of pregnant workers during the coronavirus outbreak.

Employers already have a legal duty to keep their pregnant employees safe, says the TUC. The law says that if they can’t do that in their workplace then they should allow pregnant staff to work from home.

If pregnant women can’t work at home in their current role, bosses must offer them other suitable work for the same rate of pay that can be done safely or suspend them on full pay to protect their health – and that of their unborn baby.

But the TUC is concerned employers do not understand their legal responsibilities and are putting pregnant workers who cannot work from home on sick pay, rather than suspending them on full pay.

Moving pregnant workers on to statutory sick pay is not only legally wrong, says the TUC, but it has implications for maternity pay. The level of statutory sick pay is so low it means workers on it wouldn’t qualify for vital statutory maternity pay once their baby is born.

What can the government do? 

To protect pregnant women’s health, jobs and income, the TUC wants the government to:

  1. Make sure pregnant women are paid in full: If pregnant workers can’t go to work because of health and safety risks, the law says they should be suspended on full pay. The TUC says the government should extend the job retention scheme so that employers are able to reclaim 80% of these workers’ wages. However, it is a legal requirement that employers continue to pay the affected pregnant workers full pay.
  1. Raise awareness of existing legal protections for pregnant workers: Ministers should take active steps to reassure pregnant women they are fully protected from pregnancy and maternity discrimination and unfair dismissal if they follow the government advice on social distancing.

The TUC is calling for these measures to apply to all pregnant workers not just employees, including those in part-time, agency or insecure work and those who are self-employed.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“No pregnant woman should be treated unfairly or be left out of pocket – or even out of a job – for doing the right thing.

“Bosses need to comply with the law and protect the health and safety of pregnant women and their unborn baby.

“Families with new babies can’t afford to lose out on vital cash. Ministers must protect working families, and that means acting fast to protect pregnant workers.”

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