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May 4, 2020

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Pregnant workers and COVID–19

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, employers will be dealing with a host of issues around the management of its workforce, including those who have special requirements and needs.

When it comes to pregnant workers, employers are required to carry out a risk assessment to identify the risks and how they will be eliminated or reduced. So, what risks and issues should employers be aware of within their pregnant workforce amid the outbreak?

This Q&A, with Amy Sadro, Principal Associate, Environment, Health and Safety Team at Eversheds Sutherland, should help employers navigate some of the main issues they need to think about.

What obligations do companies have in relation to pregnant workers who are now working from home, with a temporary computer display screen equipment set up?

Amy SadroAmy Sadro (AS): “Due to changing physical needs, pregnant workers are likely to require adjustments to their workstation or environment whether working in the office or at home. For those who work with computers, an employer should consider revisiting and updating its DSE assessment and providing a reminder of how a safe and comfortable workspace might be achieved at home. Pregnant workers are also likely to benefit from having any specialist equipment sent to their homes like back supports, foot rests, wrist supports and chairs. Provision should be made for pregnant workers to raise their changing needs as their pregnancy develops and the period in which we are all working from home lengthens.”

How do firms best support pregnant workers who might be impacted by the lack of social contact and support they would usually get from colleagues and others?

(AS): “For all employees, levels of engagement and motivation can be linked to social contact and support from colleagues. Pregnant workers may feel particularly vulnerable, socially isolated or lonely, therefore, an employer might want to consider whether it can set up virtual forums or ways of connecting the pregnant workers within its business as well as establishing a way to receive feedback of any concerns or any additional needs for its pregnant workforce.”

How might employers provide additional support to the mental health and wellbeing of our pregnant workers?

(AS): “Pregnant workers are likely to be a category of employee who are more susceptible to stress or mental health issues during the lock down. While this might derive from new working arrangements, pregnant workers will also be dealing with other issues likely to cause stress, like maternity appointments being held virtually and other health checks being cancelled or delayed. While some of these issues are outside of an employer’s control, it is useful to remind pregnant workers of any provision to support their mental health including how to access Mental Health First Aiders and Employee Assistance Programmes.”

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