Following the announcement on March 16th from the Prime Minister suggesting that pregnant women should follow social distancing the Royal College of Midwives alongside the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health are working together to provide support and guidance for pregnant women and those who care for them.
National policy on social distancing measures has shifted considerably since the peak of the pandemic and now varies regionally. However, the UK Government has maintained the precautionary measure of classing pregnant women as clinically vulnerable. Therefore, despite the easing of restrictions from 4 July 2020, the advice remains that pregnant women who can work from home should continue to do so. You can find the latest guidance here, in particular section 7 on clinically vulnerable people.
Since the government has lifted restrictions on individuals who are extremely vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 (those who have been shielding), we believe it is appropriate to archive our occupational health guidance for pregnant women. While the clinical information in this guidance about the risks of the COVID-19 infection during pregnancy still stands, the action to be taken by employers needs to be guided by the government.
We have been consulting with the UK Government in recent months to revise the current occupational health guidance for pregnant women during the pandemic and we continue to do so.
Employers have a responsibility to protect the health and safety of pregnant women who are working. This responsibility is laid out in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Under these regulations, employers are required to carry out risk assessments. If there are risks, your employer must take reasonable action to remove the risks by altering your working conditions or hours of work; by providing suitable alternative work on the same terms and conditions; or by suspending you on full pay (if there is no suitable alternative work).
How and where you can safely work should be advised by your employer, after they conduct their risk assessment of your workplace and your individual situation. UK Government guidance on Working Safely during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and guidance on the NHS Employers website (for healthcare professionals) is available to help them to do this. The RCOG is unable to provide guidance on individual risk assessments which must be conducted by your employer in line with the government guidance.
We have kept the archived RCOG, RCM and FOM joint occupational health guidance available to provide you and your employer with the clinical information about the risk and potential implications of being severely affected by COVID-19, particularly if you are 28 weeks’ pregnant or more. This information is still relevant and can be used to inform your risk assessment. This information is also available in our clinical guidance on coronavirus in pregnancy.
If you are unable to work from home, you can work in a public-facing role provided your employer conducts the risk assessment and is able to make appropriate arrangements to sufficiently minimise your exposure to the virus.
If you have concerns about your risk assessment and the resulting recommendations, you should speak to your employer in the first instance. If you are still not satisfied, consider contacting your trade union representative or, if you do not have a trade union representative, Maternity Action has published lots of helpful information here. Maternity Action has also published FAQs around rights and benefits during pregnancy and maternity leave which you may find helpful