UPDATE: RCOG Occupational health guidance for employers & pregnant woman archived

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14 October, 2020

Ruth Rule-Mullen
Partner and Head of Public Sector Employment

The guidance document 'Occupational Health advice for employers and pregnant woman during the COVID-19 pandemic' has been archived.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM) had produced the above guidance document to assist employers in protecting the health and safety of their pregnant employees in the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this guidance has now been archived due to "the changing landscape of factors to consider regarding the safety of people (including pregnant woman) in the workplace".

RCOG, RCM, and FOM have published a statement which explains why the guidance has been archived. It appears that the main reason is that a single recommendation is no longer appropriate given the varying levels of restrictions amongst regions and employment sectors. However, it is also interesting to note that RCOG states that it is not able to comment or advise on workplace risks because it falls outside their expertise. It therefore appears that the UK Government considered that ROCG had overstepped the mark by giving occupational health advice.

This means that RCOG's recommendation that women in their 28th week of pregnancy and beyond should work from home no longer stands. However, it is important to note that RCOG's clinical guidance (set out below) should still be considered by employers:

  • Pregnant women of any gestation are at no more risk of contracting the virus than any other non-pregnant person who is in similar health; and
  • For those women who are 28 weeks pregnant and beyond, there is an increased risk of becoming severely ill should you contract COVID-19 (this is true of any viral illness contracted, such as flu).

Without RCOG's occupational health guidance, the onus is shifted back onto employers to decide up on and take reasonable action where necessary to remove or reduce the risk of transmission in the workplace. This will involve conducting an individualised risk assessment, following sector specific UK Government COVID-19 secure guidance, and considering the clinical guidance set out above.

It is also interesting to note that RCOG believe that the UK Government has a role to play in providing guidance about work during pregnancy and that they hope to see Government-led guidance soon. At the time of writing this is yet to be provided, however as with all COVID-19 related guidance, watch this space.

RCOG's full statement can be read here.

For more information contact Ruth Rule-Mullen in our Education department via email or phone on 01772 220195. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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