Below we have outlined advice for pregnant healthcare workers as we navigate the pandemic. The government have published UK wide advice for pregnant employees which can be found here. The NHS trade unions have also developed joint principles on pregnancy and COVID-19 which can be found here.
- All employers have a responsibility to protect the health and safety of pregnant women who are working. These are enshrined in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSW) here and nothing that has happened in this COVID-19 crisis negates this.
- In addition the NHS already provides clear guidance on the use of PPE applied to significant infections. The Public Health England infection prevention and control guidance covers the four UK countries and can be found here. All NHS employers have a duty and responsibility to ensure that all staff including pregnant workers have access to appropriate PPE based on the environment in which they are working, the care and tasks they are delivering and any risks the individual member of staff may have. The RCM has produced guidance advising you of your rights and responsibilities at work here.
- Guidance by the UK government has included pregnant women in the group of vulnerable people (alongside those who are over 70 and/or have an underlying health condition, the government guidance can be accessed here). For pregnant healthcare workers this means that the legal framework around H&S in pregnancy and the requirements around PPE are a priority if this group are to be enabled to continue working.
- All available evidence suggests that pregnant women are at no greater risk of becoming seriously unwell than other healthy adults if they develop coronavirus.. This means that as long as employers are fully compliant with the requirements around pregnant workers, specifically the need to undertake risk assessments and make suitable adjustments, these workers should be able to continue working. Employers of pregnant women should ensure they are able to stringently adhere to any active government guidance on social distancing. Risk assessments and suitable adjustments will clearly vary from profession/ trade and from individual to individual. Where employers do not undertake risk assessments or organise suitable alternatives they may be breaching the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSW). The regulations state that where there's a risk of exposure to infectious disease that's greater in the workplace than to what they would be exposed outside the workplace, an employer must take health and safety action by removing risks, offering suitable alternative work or suspending on full pay.
- In the UK, information about all pregnant women requiring admission to hospital with coronavirus is recorded in a registry called the UK Obstetric Surveillance System (UKOSS). The study found that the majority of women who did become severely ill were in their third trimester of pregnancy, emphasising the importance of social distancing from 28 weeks of pregnancy. For pregnant women from 28 weeks' gestation, or with underlying health conditions such as heart or lung disease at any gestation, a more precautionary approach is advised as part of their individual risk assessment and national shielding guidance. Employers of women in this category should ensure they are able to stringently adhere to any active government guidance on social distancing and shielding. Where employers are unable to redeploy them and make arrangements to keep them safe, and where it is impossible for these workers to work from home, they will need to stop working. This will be on full pay, as per the pregnancy at work protection enshrined in law.
We are also working with NHS organisations, including NHS England, to make sure we can get the best advice to you as quickly as possible, including making sure information is being provided directly to you by your NHS Trust or Board. We strongly advise you to check our social media channels, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, to ensure you have the most up-to-date information