Pregnancy and maternity

Where can I find the Government’s advice for pregnant employees about Covid-19?

The Government has withdrawn its advice for pregnant employees about Covid-19. Please follow NEU advice, below, and contact the NEU adviceline for support on 0345 811 8111 if you need urgent advice or support; lines are open from 9am to 7pm

I am working in school and I have just found out that I am pregnant. Should I tell my head and what should they do?

We advise that you email your head about your pregnancy immediately.  Employers are responsible for undertaking health and safety risks assessments. Your head should consider the risks the current circumstances pose to you and your baby during your pregnancy and should review this once you reach 26 weeks of pregnancy.

I’m pregnant but not fully vaccinated. What should my employer do?

Your employer must take your vaccination status into account when undertaking your risk assessment. You are at higher risk of becoming ill during your pregnancy, and particularly after 26 weeks if you are not vaccinated or fully vaccinated.

I am in my third trimester and I have heard I am at particular risk. Is this correct?

The NEU follows the guidance of medical experts. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) says that amongst pregnant women, the highest risk of becoming severely unwell (should you contract the virus) appears to be for those who are over 26 weeks’ pregnant.  

Should I be working from home?

 NEU advice is that pregnant women should continue working only if the risk assessment advises it is safe to do so after suitable control measures have been put in place. If a significant health and safety risk is identified for you, your employer should adjust your working conditions or hours to remove the risk or offer alternative work on the same terms and conditions. If this cannot be done, your employer should suspend you on full pay.

Our employer doesn’t have a pregnancy-specific risk assessments available. What can I ask for?

Contact your rep and ask for an individualised risk assessment. All employers must undertake a workplace risk assessment for pregnant women on their staff; and the assessment mush take account of pregnancy. NEU advice is that pregnant women of any gestation should not be required to continue working if this is not supported by the risk assessment.

My employer has told me to start my maternity leave at 28 weeks. Is this right?

Your employer cannot force you to start your maternity leave early. Maternity leave can be triggered early if your baby is born early, if you give notice to start maternity leave early, or if you are absent for a pregnancy-related reason in the last four weeks of your pregnancy. 28 weeks is not in the last four weeks of pregnancy.

My employer says I cannot be suspended on health and safety grounds as it does not form part of the school/college policy. Is this right?

Suspension of a pregnant woman on health and safety grounds is a legal requirement under Regulation 16(3) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. The fact that is not contained in the school/college policy is neither here nor there. Contact the NEU adviceline for support on 0345 811 8111 (lines are open from 9am to 7pm).

I have been suspended on health and safety grounds. Is there anything else I should do?

Yes, you should write to your head and inform them that your maternity leave will start in your expected week of childbirth.

My employer won’t suspend me. Should I just ask my GP to sign me off as sick?

You could do, but be aware that your employer can start your maternity leave in the last 4 weeks of your pregnancy. If you do take this option, contact the adviceline on 0345 811 8111 (lines are open from 9am to 7pm) for support as to whether there is any legal claim given your employer’s refusal to suspend you.

I’m about to return to work and am still breast-feeding, what should my employer be doing to protect me?

Employers must undertake a risk assessment and remove any risks identified to the health and safety of you or your baby. Your employer should not require you to attend your place of work until it is safe for you and your baby for you to work on site.

Employers have a legal duty to assess risks to new or expectant mothers, or to that of their babies. A new mother is an employee who is pregnant, who has given birth within the previous six months, or who is breastfeeding. All education settings must take reasonable steps to remove risks by altering working conditions or hours of work, provide suitable alternative work, without loss of pay, or provide suspension on full pay for as long as the risk remains.

Childcare

My daughter has been sent home from school as she has tested positive for Covid-19. Will I be paid whilst I stay at home to look after my child?

​The NEU is clear that teachers and support staff should not be disadvantaged for following steps to control Covid-19. Teachers and support staff who are required to isolate a child at home where no one else can provide childcare should be given full pay on compassionate grounds. Some teachers and support staff may have this as a contractual right.

All parents and carers of children, whether in same sex, opposite sex, or single parent households, are entitled to take advantage of time off for emergencies if they need it. Employees with a year’s service are entitled to apply for parental leave. These are statutory rights to unpaid leave, but many employers offer some paid time off and some offer the rights to parents and carers with shorter service. Time off for emergencies, also known as time off for dependants, can be taken without notice to care for a child who has been sent home. It is usually unpaid and usually short term, for a period of several hours or a few days. Refusing full paid leave in such cases, with circumstances outside of the parent's control, could raise a potential sex discrimination claim, as the majority of carers are women. In such circumstances, and bearing in mind the lack of clarity in Government guidance, members should seek assistance from their workplace rep.  If members aren't sure who that is, they can contact their NEU branch or district. The NEU will vigorously defend members in such circumstances.

My male partner’s employer is pressing him not to take any more time off this year on the expectation that I as a female partner will undertake all the childcare – what can I do?

The NEU encourages workplace reps, school and college groups, leaders, teachers and support staff should challenge sexist stereotypes that presume that women will undertake all childcare responsibilities. Press your partner to explain to his employer that you share the childcare and that arrangements will need to be made to accommodate your shared responsibility for the care of your children. Your partner’s employer has a responsibility to consider the childcare needs of their workers, just as yours does.

While he is negotiating this, you should contact your workplace rep and seek out your flexible working, emergency leave, parental leave and any other carer’s leave policies and procedures so that you are prepared if and when you need to make arrangements for child care.

I am a single parent. My head of department has warned me not to take any more leave for childcare, on the presumption that I have a partner at home. What should I do?

Explain your situation and to seek an arrangement that allows you to balance your responsibilities. You should not be treated less favourably for seeking to exercise your statutory rights to take time off for emergencies or for parental leave. Seek support from your workplace rep or your local branch secretary. Some members have set up virtual support networks for single parent families to share tips and strategies for managing work and childcare during the crisis.