COVID-19: updated advice for pregnant employees
The Department of Health and Social Care has updated its advice for pregnant employees in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As well as a strong recommendation that pregnant women get vaccinated, the updated guidance includes a new differentiation between those who are less than 26 weeks pregnant and those who are more.
The changes made on 14 January 2022 include:
- Unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated pregnant women are at an increased risk of becoming severely ill and of pre-term birth if they contract COVID-19
- While the recommendations previously differentiated between those who were vaccinated and those who were unvaccinated (or not fully vaccinated), they now differentiate between pregnant women who are less than 26 weeks pregnant, and those who are 26 weeks pregnant and beyond.
- As regards the timing of the workplace risk assessment, the guidance states that this should be conducted as soon as the employee notifies their employer in writing that they are pregnant, and regularly reviewed as the employee’s pregnancy develops or if the workplace or work conditions change.
The guidance for those who are 26 weeks pregnant or more includes:
- Given the clinical data that suggest that risk of complications from COVID-19 increase from around 26 weeks’ gestation, further considerations should be made from this stage.
- Pregnant workers should be supported by their employer with appropriate risk mitigations in line with recommendations provided by the workplace risk assessment. Employers should make sure the controls identified by a risk assessment are applied strictly.
- Pregnant workers who continue to come into work should also consider taking lateral flow tests regularly.
- Pregnant workers should be involved in the risk assessment process and be satisfied that their continued working in the area does not put them or their baby at risk.
- Employers should also offer support by having individual discussions around pregnant workers concerns.
- As before, where a significant health and safety risk is identified for pregnant workers, employers should adjust the working conditions or hours to remove or manage the risk, where reasonably practicable to do so, or offer alternative work on the same terms and conditions. If this cannot be done, employers should suspend pregnant workers on full pay, in line with normal requirements.