Pregnant women are protected under an umbrella of rights at work with emphasis on paid time for antenatal care and maternity leave.
Human resources departments usually have stringent policies in place as women are guarded against unfair treatment but what would you, as a fleet manager, do if one of your drivers became pregnant?
The answer is probably “nothing”.
We spoke to more than 200 fleet managers about their policies for pregnant drivers and almost all of them had no formal procedure in place.
Advice from fleet managers for pregnant employees on the risks associated with pregnancy and driving seems to be almost non-existent.
Only two managers said they had any form of guidance and both used the Government’s Think! road safety website as a source for information.
Marie Jarrold, car fleet controller at British Car Auctions, is one fleet manager to tackle the issue.
She explains: “I send a very informative leaflet to our pregnant drivers.
“The Think! campaign Buckle up for baby and you leaflets have been welcomed by mums-to-be.
“General guidelines for them are also published by our HR department on the company intranet under the maternity leave policy.”
Louise Claydon, facilities officer and car fleet manager at CGG Veritas, also uses the Think! website for information.
She says: “I also provide information on current legislation for child seats in vehicles.
“We don’t have any specific policies, but we are currently reviewing our handbook and I will include advice on this in the new issue.
“However, I have found it difficult to find reliable advice on this subject.”
The Think! information leaflet shows drivers how to wear a seatbelt safely during pregnancy and copies of the leaflet can be ordered via the group’s website – http://shop.dft.gov.uk/THINKShop/.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) also provides guidance for pregnant drivers showing how to wear a seatbelt correctly. Information is also available on its website – www.rospa.com
Car safety for unborn children is an area that is rarely documented as foetal injury and death often do not show in statistics, according to Volvo.
The Swedish carmaker is the only manufacturer with a “pregnant” crash test dummy which is used to test the safety of unborn babies and mothers travelling in vehicles.
This virtual model (see image), called Linda, mimics a pregnant woman and is used to simulate how both a pregnant woman and her unborn baby move in a frontal impact.
A Volvo spokesman explains: “Linda contains detailed information about the uterus, placenta, amniotic fluid and foetus in approximately the 36th week of pregnancy.
“She can be positioned in any car model and collisions can be simulated at different speeds.”
Volvo has used the dummy to determine the optimum positioning of the seatbelt when pregnant, and its guidelines state: “The top of the diagonal belt should be taut against the front of the shoulder, crossing down between the breast and then down the side of the tummy.
“The lap section for the belt should be flat against the thighs and below the tummy, as low as possible under the curve.”
Aside from seatbelts, there is some information available on the use of airbags while pregnant and drivers are strongly advised not to switch off the airbag as studies from Volvo show pregnant women benefit from the protection of a front airbag.
Insurance companies have taken the same stance and urge pregnant drivers to keep airbags intact.
Andy Price, practice leader – motor fleet at Zurich, says: “We would
follow the guidance given to us by RoSPA which says not to switch the airbag off.
“We have never had any claims where an airbag has been considered a contributory factor in causing harm in this respect, so drivers would be covered if the airbag remained on as compliant with normal health and safety standards.”
For the majority of fleet managers who have yet to provide guidelines for pregnant drivers, the advice given below from Think! and RoSPA would be a good place to start.
All pregnant women must wear seatbelts by law.
This applies to front and back seats and pregnancy does not in itself automatically provide exemption from the law.
The safest way for pregnant women to wear a seatbelt is:
Place the diagonal strap between the breasts (over the breastbone) with the strap resting over the shoulder, not the neck.
Place the lap belt flat on the thighs, fitting comfortably beneath the enlarged abdomen, and over the pelvis, not the bump.
The belt should be worn as tightly as possible.
In this way the forces applied in a sudden impact can be absorbed by the body's frame.
Pregnant women should not wear lap-only-belts as they have been shown to cause grave injuries to unborn children in the event of sudden deceleration.
Don’t change your habit of wearing a seatbelt – buckling up now is just as important.
Wearing a seatbelt saves lives and reduces the injury risk to an unborn baby by up to 70% in the event of an accident.
Wearing a seatbelt while pregnant will not, on its own, harm your baby. If you have a crash, it will help to protect you and your unborn baby.
Loughborough University carried out a study into the risks unborn babies face in a car crash.
If you suffer serious injuries in a crash there is a 40% to 50% chance of losing your baby.
Even if your injuries are slight there is still up to a 5% risk of losing your baby.
As your bump grows you'll need to adjust your car so it is more comfortable for you to drive.
When you push the seat back your view out of the mirrors will shift. Always check your mirrors when you adjust the seat or the height of the wheel.
Make sure you aren't stretching to reach the clutch, brake and accelerator as you move your seat away from the wheel and this could affect your control of the vehicle.