Managing Pregnant Employees during COVID-19

By Kimberley Wallace

Senior HR Consultant

Employers will already have undertaken a risk assessment in order to ensure that their workplaces are COVID-secure and any risks identified are removed or minimised.

However, even though you may already have extra measures in place, for all pregnant staff members and indeed new mothers returning to work, you are required to carry out an individual risk assessment in line with the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations.

The risk assessment must take into account the role the staff member undertakes within the practice, any pre-existing health conditions they may have, whether they use public transport to travel to work and social distancing guidelines.

You will also need to take into account any particular rules and guidelines in the area in which your practice is based and if you have an occupational health provider you should liaise with them.

In order to assist with understanding the risks to pregnant employees, the government, in conjunction with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Midwives and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, has provided specific guidance for managing staff during this period.

The guidance states:

  • Staff members who are less than 28 weeks pregnant with no underlying health conditions can continue working if the risk assessment advises that it is safe for them to do so and you are able to remove or minimise any risks.
  • For staff members who are 28 weeks pregnant and beyond or have an underlying health condition which puts them at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 you should take even greater care to remove any risks that are identified.
  • Staff members who are considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable, which are those individuals who may previously have received letters advising them to shield, are likely to require special consideration.

You should discuss the outcome of the risk assessment with the staff member and where there are risks identified take reasonable steps to remove or minimise them. You could, for example, allow them to work from home or agree for them to temporarily undertake a different role in the practice or work different hours.

As a last resort, if you are unable to find a suitable alternative you may need to suspend them on medical grounds, with full pay, rather than furlough them.

This article is intended to provide you with an overview of the key points you should be aware of.

The personal circumstances of each staff member will be different and therefore, we would advise that you contact us for further guidance.