A new survey by the TUC (published 10th June 2020) indicates that A quarter of pregnant women have faced discrimination at work during the coronavirus outbreak:
- 1 in 4 pregnant women have been treated unfairly
- Low-paid pregnant women are most likely to have lost pay or work
- Health of pregnant women at risk as 2 in 5 haven’t had a workplace safety assessment
During the week commencing 1 June 2020, the TUC surveyed a sample of 3,407 pregnant women, mums on maternity leave or women that have recently returned to work from maternity leave to understand the key issues they face at work and the impact this health and economic crisis is having on their incomes, jobs and livelihoods.
During the Covid-19 pandemic it found that 25% had experienced unfair treatment at work, including being singled out for redundancy or furlough.
Of those surveyed, low-paid pregnant women (earning less than £23,000 a year) were more likely (28%) than women on higher salaries (17%) to have been forced to lose pay and stop work.
Pregnant women told the TUC they were required to take sick leave when they were not sick, to take unpaid leave, to start their maternity leave early or to leave the workplace.
“All of these actions are illegal” says the TUC. “Pregnant women have the right to be suspended on full pay if workplace risks to their health cannot be removed or reduced, or suitable alternative work is not available”.
Health and safety at work
The TUC poll exposed a range of health and safety concerns for pregnant women during the coronavirus outbreak:
- One in four (25%) of those surveyed told the TUC they felt unsafe at work
- Two in five (42%) responding to the poll said they had not had a workplace health and safety risk assessment
- Of those who had a risk assessment, almost half (46%) said their employer did not take the legally required necessary action to reduce the risks identified – and a quarter (25%) said the risk assessment did not take into account the additional risks posed by Covid-19
Government must act now
The TUC is calling on the government to take action and:
- Change the law to protect new and expectant mums’ health and safety: Employers are already required to undertake a Covid-19 risk assessment, which should take account of additional risks to anyone who is pregnant or a new mum. The government should now change the law to require employers to undertake individual written risk assessments when they are informed that a woman who works for them is pregnant, has given birth in the past six months or is breastfeeding. Assessment of risk should involve discussions with the woman involved, and if any risk is identified then it must be removed
- Enforce the law: The government should make it clear to employers that if the risks facing a pregnant worker cannot be removed, and there is no alternative work available, pregnant women have the right to be suspended from work on full pay. The Health and Safety Executive should enforce the law through spot checks and should encourage pregnant women to raise concerns with them (anonymously if necessary). Employers who break the law should be subject to the full range of penalties including fines
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Work should be safe for pregnant women and new mums. But our research has uncovered shocking levels of pregnancy and maternity discrimination during the coronavirus outbreak.
“Employers are routinely flouting health and safety law. This puts women’s lives – and the health of their unborn babies – at risk.
“Ministers must require every employer to do an individual risk assessment for every pregnant woman and new mum. If it’s not safe for women to keep working, employers must suspend them on full pay. Employers must stop illegally selecting pregnant women and new mums for redundancy. And bosses who break the law should be fined.”