The NASUWT is aware that there are a significant number of supply teacher members who are pregnant or on maternity leave who will be concerned about the workplace, given the announcement of the removal of the remaining Covid-19 restrictions following the publication of the Westminster Government’s Living with COVID-19 response.

In light of this, the Union has produced this advice and guidance to ensure that supply teachers who are pregnant or on maternity leave are aware of their rights and entitlements and supported during this time.

It should be noted that this advice and guidance should be considered in conjunction with the comprehensive advice, health and safety checklists and other associated guidance produced by the Union, including advice that specifically addresses issues related to pregnancy and maternity leave during the Covid-19 pandemic, which can be found on our Covid-19 Advice (Wales) page.

In addition, the Union has produced a specific Pregnancy Health and Safety Risk Assessment to assist and support those who are pregnant or new mothers. This can be accessed on the right/below.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) places a responsibility on all employers to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all employees and non-employees in their workplace, including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. This includes identifying and assessing risks to health and safety and steps to reduce or eliminate these risks. This applies to Covid-19 in the same way it would to any other hazard.

Supply teachers working through an agency or umbrella company who are pregnant or breastfeeding mothers are therefore entitled to the same provisions as permanent employees when they are on a placement with a school (referred to as the ‘end user’ or ‘client’ in legislation), as the school must ensure the safety of its temporary workers in the same way it does that of its own employees.

There is a joint responsibility between the provider (i.e. the supply agency) and the end user with regard to the health and safety of agency workers, including supply teachers, who are pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. Supply staff who are pregnant or breastfeeding mothers must therefore be treated exactly as permanently employed teachers with regard to health and safety, including in regard to issues associated with Covid-19.

This applies equally if you are supplied via an umbrella company, as they are legally your employer. The umbrella company would therefore have the responsibility for your health and safety and for taking steps to address this as you are their employee.

As a supply teacher who is pregnant or breastfeeding, you should expect your agency to take reasonable steps to identify any known risks concerning your health and safety and to satisfy itself that the school for which you are undertaking an assignment has taken appropriate steps to mitigate the risks associated with Covid-19, including producing an individual risk assessment as appropriate.

This should be provided to you by the agency in enough time to fully familiarise yourself with the situation with that employer.

Your duties as a pregnant or new mother

Whilst your agency and the school have responsibilities in regard to your health and safety, you also have a duty to take reasonable care for your own health and safety, particularly in regard to issues associated with Covid-19.

You must co-operate with your agency and the end user where you are working, including by providing them with any information which may necessitate the provision of a risk assessment before you undertake an assignment with a school, including if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

If you are pregnant or a new mother and have worked for the same school (‘end user’ or ‘client’) in the same role for a 12-week qualifying period, you are also entitled to:

  • reasonable paid time off to attend antenatal appointments when on assignments;

  • be offered an alternative assignment if your assignment is unsuitable for pregnancy-related reasons; or

  • be suspended on full pay if a suitable alternative assignment is not available.

If you are an employee of the agency or the umbrella company, you will be entitled to these rights from day one of any assignment.

Even if you have not been with a school for the 12-week qualifying period, it is still discrimination if your agency refuses to place you in a job or terminates an assignment because you are pregnant or are breastfeeding or have given birth in the last six months.

It would also be seen as discrimination if your agency only gave you short-term assignments in comparison to those offered to other supply teachers, or if the agency refused to place you in a job because you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Schools as end clients or hirers may also be seen to discriminate if they refuse to hire you because you are pregnant or breastfeeding or if they refuse to let you return following your maternity leave.

If your employer refuses to undertake a risk assessment and/or provide you with suitable alternative work, then you should contact the NASUWT for advice and support.

Members should be consulted on the risk assessment and any member who has concerns about the provision of the risk assessment or its contents should contact the NASUWT for advice and support.

Supply teachers who are pregnant and in the third trimester

In respect of women who are pregnant and in their third trimester (more than 28 weeks’ pregnant), there is evidence which suggests a link between the symptoms of Covid-19 and complications in and around the time of birth, including premature birth, pre-eclampsia, the need for an emergency caesarean, and stillbirth.

Previous advice and guidance produced by the UK Government referenced the need for employers to take a ‘more precautionary approach’ towards those who are pregnant and in the third trimester. This is because information produced by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) suggests that the majority of pregnant women admitted to hospital with Covid-19 were in the third trimester of pregnancy.

However, new advice and guidance from the UK Government for pregnant women during the Covid-19 pandemic removes the distinction between pre- and post-28 weeks’ gestation and removes the general advice around working from home in the third trimester, except where the woman is not fully vaccinated.

Despite this, the advice and guidance produced by the Welsh Government for schools still references the expectation that employers take a ‘more precautionary approach’ as part of any risk assessment for those who are pregnant and in the third trimester.

This includes consideration of how best to redeploy teachers who pregnant and in the third trimester, including adapting duties and looking at how to maximise the potential for working flexibly from home/home working.

This is because information produced by the RCOG suggests that the majority of pregnant women admitted to hospital with Covid-19 were in the third trimester of pregnancy.

Because of this, issues to do with health and safety and the need for a comprehensive individual risk assessment become even more important for those who are pregnant and in the third trimester.

For example, the provision of suitable rest facilities which are located in a suitable place (e.g. near toilets), including if necessary appropriate facilities for teachers who are pregnant, becomes even more important during the third trimester, given it is likely there will be issues associated with mobility.

Additional mitigations for those who are pregnant and in the third trimester could include the provision of a dedicated classroom for you to use on the ground floor that is close to an emergency exit, so you do not have to move around the school/college.

School leaders will need to be cognisant of this information, including being more flexible with how teachers who are pregnant and in the third trimester are deployed if the school is not able to demonstrate that the risks are removed or mitigated satisfactorily.

For those supply teachers on longer term assignments, if the school you are working at is unable to satisfactorily adjust the working conditions to remove the risk (where reasonably practicable to do so) or offer you alternative work on the same terms and conditions, then you should be suspended on full pay.

Statutory Maternity Pay

All workers and employees who are paid through PAYE, with tax and National Insurance deducted at source, are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) if they meet the normal qualifying conditions. This means that agency workers, such as supply teachers, can claim SMP.

If you are an employee of the agency or the umbrella company, you will be entitled to these rights from day one of any assignment.

If you are eligible, your agency can start your SMP automatically when you are 36 weeks’ pregnant if you are off work on maternity suspension, or they can start it from the date that your placement would have ended, if that is earlier.

If you do not meet the qualifying conditions for SMP, you can claim Maternity Allowance (MA).

If you have been put on furlough, your employer is still obliged to pay your MA at the full rate rather than 80% of normal pay, and any period of furlough still counts as continuous service for the purposes of qualifying for MA. The same is true if you are accessing SSP.

If you are applying for MA, you must send in payslips covering a 13-week period in the 66 weeks before your baby is due. You should send in payslips with your highest earnings. If you need to send in payslips covering the period when you were on furlough, you should let the MA Claims Department know, so that they can use your normal earnings.

Legal rights during your pregnancy and maternity leave

Supply teachers working through an agency or umbrella company who are pregnant are entitled to the same provisions and protections as employees, depending on their eligibility.

 

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