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Employment: Pregnancy

Question for Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

UIN HL3252, tabled on 21 April 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that pregnant employees do not suffer detriment at work, including dismissal or less favourable treatment, as a result of following public health guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Answered on

5 May 2020

Government is determined to ensure that pregnant women do not suffer detriment at work in any circumstances, including where they have followed public heath guidance.

The Coronavirus outbreak has not changed the law on pregnancy and maternity discrimination. There is no place for it under any circumstances. If a pregnant woman is dismissed or made redundant on the grounds of her pregnancy, this is automatically unfair dismissal.

Under Health and Safety legislation, it remains the employer’s responsibility to put in place arrangements to control health and safety risks. There are already specific requirements in place for pregnant workers and guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) sets out the expectations around risk assessments, finding alternative work and medical suspension, where necessary.

In terms of new specific coronavirus interventions, HSE will consider taking a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks where it is clear an employer is not following Public Health England guidance properly (eg not taking appropriate action on social distancing or ensuring workers in the shielded category can follow advice to self-isolate). Government guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme also makes it clear that pregnant women can be furloughed if they and their employer agree, and provided they meet the normal eligibility requirements.