Sophie* works in healthcare and is pregnant, which put her in the Government’s high risk category, but her employer is refusing acknowledge this or be flexible. Here, she tells her story.
I am work in mental health services, and a currently in the first trimester of a long-awaited pregnancy. Before Covid-19, my life was good, I enjoyed my job and worked hard. In fact, the only stress was trying to get pregnant, so when it did finally happen we were thrilled.
Then the virus hit, and we pregnant women were placed in the high risk and “clinically vulnerable” group by the Government. Things changed very quickly for me, and my unborn baby’s safety very quickly became my priority.
My job requires a great deal of face-to-face time with patients, so after some discussion my employer carried out a risk assessment. They stated that, due to the importance of my role, they expected me to carry on as normal. But I know that my role is not currently safe, let alone for a pregnant woman – they cannot guarantee social distancing and there’s little PPE available.
I have spent the past eight weeks at home because my employer wouldn’t support me to make my job safe. They won’t offer me an alternative, such as fewer patient hours, or more hours working from home. I’ve been negotiating with them about how I can return to work safely, but as I write the situation remains unchanged. I am running out of options because I am just not willing to take the risk.
Mentally, this has had a hugely negative effect on me, combined with pregnancy hormones. Some days I cry non-stop with worry. I know that the stress isn’t good for me or my unborn baby; this should be such a happy time. Instead the situation has put a total dampener on my pregnancy. Something I’ve wanted for so long.
Part of the stress is financial: my husband is self-employed and has lost his work. During the weeks that I’ve been off, I’ve not earned full pay. It makes me concerned for the future – are they trying to push me out? If I do go back, how will they treat me? What about my maternity pay? And what about my job when I return from maternity leave? These are the questions playing on my mind constantly.
What I can’t understand is why they haven’t been more supportive or why they don’t care about my mental health. I’ve given them all of the evidence from Pregnant Then Screwed and other sources that explains why pregnant women need to be protected, but they’ve just ignored it. They’ve also ignored advice from my GP. I have worked for the company for years and am shocked in the way I have been treated.
I feel discriminated against because I am pregnant and therefore not able to return to work. But I want to – just in a way that’s safe for me and my unborn baby. I’m unsure what will happen next, or how will we pay the bills. I’m running out of options and I don’t know which way to turn.