ENGLAND has been plunged into a third lockdown with schools closed, non-essential retail banned and a limit on outside exercise to once per day.
One of the rules is that anyone who can work from home must do so, but there are still plenty of industries where people need to go in – so what does this mean for pregnant women?
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After months of campaigning from charities, the government finally published specialised guidance for pregnant women on December 23.
This is because pregnant women are consider "clinically vulnerable" or in some cases "clinically extremely vulnerable" to coronavirus.
Here we explain everything you need to know including what to do if you can't work from home and your employment rights.
Coronavirus advice for pregnant women in the UK
THE UK government has now classed expectant mums as those among the “vulnerable
According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the large majority of women will experience only mild or moderate symptoms.
These include a cough, fever and shortness of breath.
More severe symptoms, such as pneumonia, are widely described in older people and those with underlying conditions.
However, they say that these symptoms could occur in pregnant women, and have advised healthcare professionals that these should be identified and treated promptly.
Yet experts also say that there is currently no data to suggest that there is an increased risk of miscarriage or early pregnancy loss in relation to Covid-19.
They added that it's considered unlikely that there will be congenital effects of the virus on foetal development.
As this is a new virus, there is limited evidence about managing coronavirus infection in those who have just given birth.
However, there are no reports of women diagnosed with coronavirus during the third trimester of pregnancy having passed the virus to their babies while in the womb.
Do I need to go into work if I'm pregnant?
Under the new lockdown rules – which are expected to be in place until mid-February – anyone who can work from home has been asked to do so.
This means that if you can do your job without leaving the house, you should be allowed to by your employer.
But some jobs still require people to go to work either because they are key workers or because their roles can only be carried out in person.
If you're one of the many pregnant women who cannot work from home, your company has to carry out a detailed risk assessment before you can go in.
This assessment must follow the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations and be based on information from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).
Carrying out an assessment may mean that your employer needs to get advice from the occupational health department.
You cannot be asked to go into work unless the company you work for has carried out one of these assessments.
If your workplace is deemed safe from a health and safety assessment then your employer can tell you to go in.
But if the risk assessment says it's not safe, then your employer has to remove or manage any risks before you can go to work.
If you work in a healthcare setting, the RCOG has said that you should not be working in patient-facing roles due to the very high risk of infection.
If your employer is unable to make your workplace sufficiently risk-free, then it needs to offer you alternative work or working arrangements – including working from home.
Some pregnant women, such as those with severe heart disease, fall on the "clinically extremely vulnerable" list and have been told to shield.
People who are shielding are only allowed to leave their homes for medical appointments and will not be able to go to work regardless of whether their employers have carried out a risk assessment.
You can be asked to work from home if you are shielding, and your company can offer you alternative work to do if your normal job cannot be carried out remotely.
What happens if I can't work?
The government says that if your organisation cannot arrange for you to work safely then you must be suspended on your normal pay.
You should make sure you are getting your usual full salary rather than furlough pay or Statutory Sick Pay.
This includes jobs where adjustments to the work environment and role may not be possible such as in the manufacturing and retail industries.
Shielding pregnant women who cannot work from home should also be suspended on full pay.
You should not be asked to take sick pay, annual leave or unpaid leave in any of these circumstances.
The charity Pregnant Then Screwed advices that a suspension can last up to 26 weeks with full pay, but will usually end once your maternity leave begins.
If you are absent from work for a pregnancy-related reason within four weeks of your due date, you employer can start your maternity leave early.
Do I have to go to work if I am an agency worker?
If you have been with an agency for 12 weeks or more then you have the same rights as an employed pregnant woman.
That means the agency has to carry out a a risk assessment and offer you alternative work if your normal role does not allow social distancing.
Again, if the business can't do this then it needs to suspend you on full pay.
What can I do if I've been asked to work but I don't think it's safe?
If you are worried, start by making sure that your employer has carried out the appropriate risk assessments.
Pregnant Then Screwed, a charity for mums-to-be, has a draft template letter that you can send to your company to outline the rules around safety for pregnant women and its responsibilities.
If you have further concerns you can get advice on your employment rights by visiting the Acas website or calling the Acas helpline on 0300 123 1100.
You can also get bespoke advice from Pregnant Then Screwed on their helpline by calling 0161 222 9879.
If the business is not managing the risks appropriately, the Health and Safety Executive and local authorities can take action against it.
This can range from giving advice, issuing enforcement notices, stopping certain work practices and even prosecution.
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