There is a lot of uncertainty at this time around the workplace and pregnant women have been concluded to fall within the High Risk category group which means that most employers have asked their pregnant employees to work from home for at least the next 12 weeks, where possible.
Of course, some workplaces may not be equipped for this, but either way, the current pandemic will affect you during your pregnancy. We have collated below some of the main questions that arise with some helpful answers.
We have sent our team to work from home, but we are committed to supporting our clients and the wider community, so we have decided to offer a free 30 minutes consultation over the phone (we can even do a video call, if you prefer) to answer some of your pressing questions. There is no obligation on you to do more than just get some help, reassurance and information, so please do get in touch and send your details to firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our team will contact you at the earliest opportunity.
Can my employer stop me from working from home?
This is a question of reasonableness, if you are pregnant, at any stage of your pregnancy, you are considered to be at risk in accordance with the Government's guidance and so it means that you should be self-isolating for at least the next 12 weeks. It would be for your employer to consider the most reasonable measures and whether your role can be carried out from home (for example, this is likely to be different for NHS frontline staff).<
If you have not yet advised your employer of your pregnancy, perhaps because you are still in the first trimester, now is opportune time for you to have this conversations so that the appropriate action can be taken in your case.
Can my employer dismiss me for being pregnant because I can't work from home?
Just because we are in the middle of a global pandemic, does not mean that employment laws no longer applies - this means that you cannot be dismissed just because you are pregnant and there are no ifs, buts or maybes. If you have a job that cannot be done from home, for a variety of reasons, but you are pregnant which means that the recommendation from the Government is that you be at home, then you should speak with your line manager and / or HR person in the business so that measures can be considered or put in place for you.
However, just because measures may not be capable of being put in place, does not in itself mean that you can be dismissed. Equality Act 2010 still protects women from being dismissed solely on the basis that they are pregnant and so your pregnancy cannot be the reason for dismissal in and of itself. This are trying times and so honest and frank conversations will need to be had.
If I self-isolate due to being unwell, will I still get paid?
You absolutely will get paid. If you self-isolate as you or someone in your home feels unwell, you would be considered as being on sick leave. This means that, provided that you follow your employer's policies on sickness absence reporting, you would be entitled to company sick pay (if any is available to you) and / or Statutory Sick Pay ("SSP"). The Government has even announced reimbursement to certain business for SSP which means that you should have no reason to not receive, at least, that amount during your sick leave, after the first three days of absence.
It may also be the case that your employer would consider the full 12 weeks' isolation as sickness absence - we foresee this as being quite likely especially for smaller businesses - in which case you should bear in mind that SSP entitlement lasts for up to 26 weeks. This means that unless you have had long-term sickness absence during the last year already, you will at least receive the full amount of SSP for your period of isolation.
Can I use my annual leave during the isolation period?
Yes, you can. If you have not already used your full entitlement then you could use it now to "bolster" your earnings if you do find yourself only receiving SSP. Please bear in mind that you would still have to follow your company's usual policy with regards to booking annual leave, and with requesting it sooner than you may have done otherwise, a conversation would be appropriate with your line manager / HR person.
Can my employer require that I use my annual leave during this period?
Yes, your employer can also require that you use your annual leave entitlement. This is not ideal for many, we do understand that, but your employer has the right under current legislation to require you to take annual leave at certain times, and so this would be a reasonable action for them to take (albeit, not ideal for individuals, of course). Please bear in mind that they can do that, unless your contract or the company's policies suggest otherwise and so there are certain caveats in this instance.
What about my maternity leave?
If you are due to start your maternity leave during the 12 weeks' isolation recommended by the Government, then your maternity leave should still start at the agreed date as it would have done under any other circumstances. This means that if you are working from home, you should consider the appropriate steps for a handover before your maternity leave starts and then you would not be required to undertake any further work after that time. If you are not working in that time as your job does not permit it, or you are working as normal as you may be a key worker within the Government guidance, then your maternity leave would start as normal on the date that you will have agreed with your employer.
Antenatal medical appointments
You may already be aware but, as you are pregnant, your employer should give you reasonable time off to attend any antenatal appointments, even during these uncertain times.
Of course, you should also have some responsibility such as ensuring that you schedule those around your usual working hours so that you are attending the appointment at the start or end of your day to disrupt your work schedule as little as possible - whether you are working from home or otherwise.
As always, we are here to help. We encourage you to contact us if you any questions. As you can appreciate, these are unprecedented times and we may not have all of the answers but we will endeavour to advise you as best as we can drawing on our knowledge and experience to date, as well as the information available.
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.