A survey of 3,400 women who have been pregnant or on maternity leave during the pandemic found that a quarter said they had experienced unfair treatment at work, including being singled out for redundancy or furlough.
The TUC said its poll indicated that low-paid pregnant women were more likely than women on higher salaries (17 per cent) to have been forced to lose pay and stop work. Pregnant women told the TUC they had to take sick leave when they were not sick, to take unpaid leave, start their maternity leave early or to leave the workplace, because their employer did not act to make their workplace safe for them.
All of these actions are illegal, said the union organisation, pointing out that pregnant women have the right to be suspended on full pay if workplace risks to their health cannot be removed or reduced, or suitable alternative work is not available.
Employers are already required to undertake a Covid-19 risk assessment, which should take account of additional risks to anyone who is pregnant or a new mother.
The TUC called on the UK government to change the law to make employers undertake individual written risk assessments when they are told that a female employee is pregnant, has given birth in the past six months or is breastfeeding. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Work should be safe for pregnant women and new mums, but our research has uncovered shocking levels of pregnancy and maternity discrimination during the coronavirus outbreak.
“Employers are routinely flouting health and safety law. This puts women’s lives, and the health of their unborn babies, at risk.
“Ministers must require every employer to do an individual risk assessment for every pregnant woman and new mum. If it’s not safe for women to keep working, employers must suspend them on full pay. Employers must stop illegally selecting pregnant women and new mums for redundancy, and bosses who break the law should be fined.”
A separate survey found more than a third (35 per cent) of young adults think they will lose their job or see their pay or hours cut due the economic impact of coronavirus.
Some 17 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds believe they will be made redundant in the coming months. A further 18 per cent in this age group anticipate that they will have to take a pay cut or reduced hours, according to comparethemarket.com’s latest household financial confidence tracker.
While anxiety around employment and pay appears to be considerably higher among those starting out on the job ladder than other age groups, there is still significant concern among the general population, the research carried found.