Here’s our guide for you if you are a pregnant employee during the Coronavirus pandemic:
Whilst it is believed that the risks to pregnant women and their babies posed by coronavirus is minimal, the government are taking additional precautionary measures as there’s a lack of robust evidence at this stage in the pandemic’s development.
We know that being an expectant parent, at any time, can be a period of strong and mixed emotions. Many people can feel overwhelmed with the enormity of impending changes to their lives, concerns for their unborn child and their ability to cope with changing family circumstances, finances and continuity of employment. This is all quite normal as parents prepare to welcome their new addition to their family.
However, we’re in the midst of a global crisis like no other combatting the impact of the coronavirus. This could be adding to your concerns. Your imagined build up to your maternity leave has probably altered substantially as all our lives have become restricted.
We have created this guide to provide reassurance, resources and guidance for you as a pregnant employee at this time.
Government advice for pregnant women
The UK government have set out categories of vulnerable people in the fight to protect people from the impact of COVID-19, including pregnant women. At the time of writing the government’s advice for pregnant women is to exercise social distancing practices, specifically:
- If you are pregnant and in your first and second trimester, you should follow the social distancing practices issued to the general population
- If you are pregnant and in your third trimester (after 28 weeks’ gestation) you should follow the advice stringently.
- If you are pregnant and in your first and second trimester with underlying health conditions, you should also follow the advice stringently.
- Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease have been advised to shield themselves at home .
The government’s advice is changing almost daily in response to the evolving situation. Make sure you keep up to date with the latest guidance from the Gov.UK website.
Taking good care of yourself and your unborn baby
Clearly at this time, it is important to take good care of yourself and your unborn baby. This includes continuing with your routine ante-natal appointments.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Royal College of Midwives and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, with input from the Royal College of Anaesthetists, the Obstetric Anaesthetists’ Association, Public Health England and Health Protection Scotland have provided guidance to healthcare professionals for the care of pregnant women and have also produced these Q&As for pregnant women and their families.
This includes lots of useful advice from what to do if you have coronavirus symptoms, arrangements for continuing ante-natal appointments, what to do if there is a medical emergency, arrangements for giving birth and breastfeeding.
As a pregnant employee you will continue to have four main legal rights whilst the coronavirus pandemic continues:
- paid time off for ante-natal care
- maternity leave
- maternity pay or maternity allowance
- protection against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal.
If you feel that your employer has not followed their legal obligations and you would benefit from expert advice on your specific situation, we recommend contacting the free Pregnant Then Screwed helpline or an employment law specialist.
During the coronavirus outbreak, employers have had to respond rapidly to changing circumstances and advice. In lots of cases they’ve had to make very quick changes to their workforce and operations. You should not experience any detriment due to being pregnant, whilst ensuring you follow the specific advice from the government with regards to protecting yourself and your baby.
If you feel that you have suffered a detriment as a result of your pregnancy, you may be entitled to make a claim against your employer through an Employment Tribunal.
Understanding your employment status
It’s important to understand your current employment status and be reassured about how this will impact your maternity benefits and right to return to work. Here are the main scenarios:
|Current employment status|
Continuity of employment.
Your employer’s Maternity Policy will continue to be applicable to you.
Maternity pay and benefits as per your employer’s Maternity Policy, including your right to return to work following your maternity leave.
If you are unable to work due to needing to isolate or being unwell (including coronavirus), this will be in accordance with your employer’s Sickness Absence Policy.
If you have recently lost your job, are self-employed or not entitled to receive Statutory Maternity Pay, you will be able to claim Maternity Allowance.
Staying in touch with your employer
It’s important that you follow the requirements contained within your employer’s Maternity Policy for formal notifications, such as notifying your employer of your baby’s due date and the date you wish to start your maternity leave.
Keep in regular contact with your line manager and HR contact (even if your working arrangements have varied from your normal arrangements). Speak to your line manager about any concerns you may have and plan out the handing over your responsibilities ahead of your leave starting.
Clearly, we are in exceptional times with the coronavirus outbreak, causing lots of uncertainty around future employment and what our new ‘normal’ life will be like once the pandemic is over.
Keeping in regular contact with your line manager and any general company announcements will enable you to keep abreast of what’s going on and the likely changes you will face on return to work following your period of leave.
Looking after your physical and mental wellbeing
There’s never been a more important time to look after your physical and mental wellbeing. During the coronavirus outbreak, all our lives have contracted and for most of us daily life revolves around our home (and possibly also a safe place of work). It’s important to keep moving and doing gentle exercise within the space that is available to you. Where possible, get fresh air by spending time in a garden, on a balcony or with windows open. There are many online exercise classes available – ensure they are suitable for use during pregnancy.
Physical exercise and fresh air will also help with mental wellbeing. Turn the news and social media off if they are causing you to feel negative; stay in regular contact with friends and family who can help you to stay positive and focus on your future family life. Again, there are lots of online resources to help with positive mental wellbeing, including meditation and breathing programmes.
Take extra care during these times to reduce your exposure to the coronavirus. If you have a partner or other family member living with you who’s exposure to the virus is greater than yours, introduce additional measures at home to reduce the chances of becoming infected, including additional handwashing and cleaning, changing clothes and removing shoes on entering the home.
Here is some further advice along with coping strategies from Linda Lilwall, private midwife at Bumps2Babies.
Preparing for your new arrival
Most parents-to-be spend time preparing for a new addition to the family. This should be continued during the coronavirus outbreak. Ante-natal classes are being delivered online by NCT and other providers. The NCT also provides groups in your local area which are being operated remotely at this time.
We encourage new parents to get to know other local parents at a similar stage for ongoing peer support – look for local parenting groups in your area … connect with people remotely now to develop supportive relationships ahead of being able to meet in person when the pandemic is over.
You may have extra time available to prepare for your birth by researching and creating a birth preparation plan, watch and read parenting resources as well as getting your home prepared practically for your new arrival. Make the most of this special time to truly build your family nest. Speak to family and friends with more parenting experience to help you feel ready and prepared, enabling them to feel involved and to share your anticipation of your new family member’s arrival.
We encourage expectant parents to reflect on their fears, hopes, challenges and opportunities at this stage of life. Using these headings as prompts enables you to balance the negatives with the positives to help maintain perspective and feel resourceful. Perhaps write down your reflections and discuss them with your partner or a trusted friend.
Please remember, you’re not alone in your pregnancy journey. Lots of other women will be experiencing similar fears and hopes at this time as they go through their pregnancies. Talk to your maternity team about any medical concerns you may have and speak to your employer about any concerns relating to your employment.
If you would benefit from further support, we offer affordable, self-funding Working Parents coaching sessions with an experienced coach helping to support you at this time. Book a free 10 minute call with Sally to explore if this is right for you.
Our Weekly Boost is published every week with support and inspiration for working parents and parents on a career break. Register here to get it delivered to your inbox each week.
For employers, our sister business, CM Talent has various ways of supporting new parents in the workplace contributing to your efforts to attract, retain and develop great talent. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to talk through the best options for your organisation.