Joint Letter to Secretary of State: Covid- 19 and support for pregnant women and working families

Date Posted: Monday 27th April 2020

COVID19: Guidance to employers on the health & safety of pregnant employees, and financial support for working parents

Pregnant women and new parents are under extraordinary financial and other pressure as a result of COVID19, and should not be further disadvantaged by governmental policies that fail to reflect their specific circumstances. But the Prime Minister’s announcement on 16 March that pregnant women are classed as vulnerable led directly to many pregnant women being sent home on sick leave, in breach of existing health and safety law. Since the Chancellor’s subsequent announcement of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), many of these pregnant women have been kept on Statutory Sick Pay (just £95.85 per week), while fellow employees have been placed on furlough, on 80% of their normal pay. This looks to us to be unlawful discrimination.

In addition, those who have taken time out to care for children should not face lower support under the CJRS or associated scheme for the selfemployed. So, despite very welcome changes to the schemes on the eve of the Easter weekend, further revisions are needed. And low-income women who end up on Maternity Allowance still face reduced access to Universal Credit, compared to those in similar circumstances who qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay.

Meeting the specific needs of pregnant women and new parents in the workforce should be an integral part of the Government’s response to COVID19, and employment tribunal claims for unlawful discrimination are not a satisfactory solution for such workers or their employers. We call on Ministers to promptly deliver unambiguous guidance for employers on the health and safety of pregnant employees, and remedy remaining gaps in the support schemes.

Yours faithfully,

Ros Bragg, Director, Maternity Action
Jane van Zyl, Chief Executive, Working Families
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive, Fawcett Society
Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director, Women’s Budget Group
Sophie Walker, Chief Executive, Young Women’s Trust
Karen Teago & Emma Webster, Joint Chief Executives, YESSLaw
Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON
Dr Mary Bousted & Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretaries, National Education Union
Dr Jo Grady, General Secretary, University & College Union
Karon Monaghan QC, Matrix Chambers
Michael Ford QC, Old Square Chambers
Professor Sandra Fredman QC, Director, Oxford Human Rights Hub
Aileen McColgan QC, 11KBW Chambers
Vivienne Gay, former Regional Employment Judge, and Chair of Maternity Action’s Legal Working Group