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Working with prisoners while pregnant

(80 Posts)
Misswhitman Tue 19-Sep-17 10:02:41

Hello, I started a job working in a women's prison (resettlement not officer) 6 weeks ago and discovered I was pregnant the weekend before my start date. I informed them on my first day and they seemed to take it well. A week later while on a houseblock surrounded by prisoners I nearly fainted. My boss told me to go to the doctor and they informed me I have low blood pressure and could be at risk from fainting. They advised no prisoner contact in a note. Since this point it has been implied that there is not enough for me to do in my role without seeing prisoners and that there would not be a position for me if I took my doctors advice. They have proposed I see prisoners in the library where there are other members of staff around. I still do not feel comfortable as there are no alarms in the area. I'm wondering if I'm being the one who is unreasonable but having worked in prisons for 5 years I've never known a woman be made to work with prisoners while pregnant.

daisychain01 Wed 20-Sep-17 05:56:01

I don't have knowledge/experience about what your job entails but if your job is primarily to resettle prisoners and your core role/responsibility is contact with prisoners to enable you to perform that function, then it's difficult to argue that you can do it remotely from them.

Why would no contact with the prisoners only apply when you're pregnant though? If there's danger sure that applied whether you are or are not pg.

I presume you have an HR function? The key thing is you have a Fit Note which is a legal document. If the recommendation is NC during your pregnancy, this could fall under the umbrella of Reasonable Adjustments.

I'd take the matter straight to HR, tell them you are willing to work with them to adapt the role. It may make them reconsider their stance that they don't have a job for you. But be prepared for push back, if contact is intrinsic to the role.

Toblernone Wed 20-Sep-17 06:00:20

Surely they could organise a personal alarm for you, then you work from the library so if the alarm goes off there should be staff close by anyway?

PerfumeIsAMessage Wed 20-Sep-17 06:10:57

Due to the nature of my previous job I socialised with a lot of women my age, several of whom were serving prison officers or who worked for the Home Office within prisons.
At least 5 of them had children whilst working and none of them changed their job in any way (including the prison officers)
As far as I remember none of them had particular pregnancy related issues though.
Obviously you need to speak to HR about it but I can't really see it coming under reasonable adjustment if your job is dealing f2f with inmates
Did it just happen once? Are you off sick or have continued working?

flowery Wed 20-Sep-17 06:26:48

I'm not sure I'm following- what risk do the prisoners present to you when pregnant that doesn't apply when you are not?

KinkyFruits Wed 20-Sep-17 06:47:45

I don't understand either. Why would you be restricted from working with prisoners while pregnant? Forgive me if I'm being ignorant, is this a thing?

picklemepopcorn Wed 20-Sep-17 06:53:54

Two issues- pregnancy makes her more vulnerable to aggression from prisoners, and makes her less physically able to supervise especially if she is prone to fainting. Usually in the very early stages it isn't a problem, but later on you are physically unwieldy and the baby more vulnerable.

nodogsinthebedroom Wed 20-Sep-17 06:57:34

Are you a member of a union? If so, speak to them. Those asking why you can't work with prisoners while pregnant - have you ever been inside a prison? They can be very violent places (more so now with cuts etc). It's one thing accepting a certain amount of risk for yourself but another for your unborn baby. (Also i imagine employees could potentially sue if they were assaulted and it resulted in the loss of their child).

FiveGoMadInDorset Wed 20-Sep-17 06:57:52

Absolutely the library should have an alarm and if you need one you should get one

HopelesslydevotedtoGu Wed 20-Sep-17 06:59:10

Your manager needs to perform a pregnancy risk assessment for your job.
If this determines that you shouldn't perform any part of your job then they give you other work, or you go on paid leave if nothing else is available.

In the meantime though they can't over ride your GP fit note. How long is,that for? If they can't meet the amendments your GP specifies, then you go onto sick leave automatically.

Ask for your pregnancy risk assessment asap.

Becles Wed 20-Sep-17 07:01:27

Are there other back office roles such as admin or filing you could do for the remainder of your pregnancy? Of not are you OK with going on maternity leave this early?

creamcheeseandlox Wed 20-Sep-17 07:02:54

Your managers need to do a risk assessment and then place you in an appropriate role. I work for the police and when an officer is pregnant they are put on restricted duties away from members of the public. Usually an office based role.

Misswhitman Wed 20-Sep-17 07:03:21

They don't do personal alarms, won't give me a radio and won't put me on admin despite them doing this in the past for a member of staff who had a family member in the prison. It's not that I am at more risk from assault that is the main issue, I am a more prized hostage and if I faint and they get their hands on my keys all the locks will need to be changed which will cost 500k. I work for a massive company and there is no reason they can't put me on admin or transfer me across. I had happily agreed to work the landings prior to the fainting. All of my friends are in my industry and all have been assigned admin duties the instant they informed managers they were pregnant. New jail new rules I guess.

Nuttynoo Wed 20-Sep-17 07:04:34

If you can't perform your role while pregnant then they can ask you to take maternity leave early. They can't threaten you like that. Talk to HR. To be honest in your case an early mat leave would he a good idea.

HopelesslydevotedtoGu Wed 20-Sep-17 07:06:41

I'm not sure I'm following- what risk do the prisoners present to you when pregnant that doesn't apply when you are not?

1. Risk of harm to baby if prisoner is violent - a blow to the stomach more harmful than to a non pregnant person
2. OP less able to perform self defence with low blood pressure, and later with bump, lax ligaments etc
3. Many women prisoners will be separated from own children during sentence or children in care. It stirs up strong emotions with them which increase the risk of violence. I worked with a similar group whilst pregnant and this is definitely a thing, I was taken off certain duties for this reason
4. Other staff may need to protect OP if she can't manage herself physically during a prison fight, riot, emergency, which they don't have the staff for

Namethecat Wed 20-Sep-17 07:07:12

I worked in a male prison for 9 years. The library will have an alarm, surely you are also able to have a radio to call com's if you need assistance. Your belt has a whistle to alert nearby staff an experience tells me that the library orderlies who are very much trusted prisoners would have your back. In all honesty I'd feel safer fainting in prison than on the street as you have no valuables etc on you.

Flyingflipflop Wed 20-Sep-17 07:09:06

I was a screw for many years and have known pregnant officers, although they were quite quickly moved to back office roles. If someone lost a baby through a violent prisoner or such like, then it would be awful.

Secondly, you felt faint. You had keys on you. That could be a serious security issue.

I imagine that you're not directly employed by the MoJ? It might be harder for your agency to redeploy you for the duration of your pregnancy.

EdithWeston Wed 20-Sep-17 07:14:46

"If you can't perform your role while pregnant then they can ask you to take maternity leave early."

They can ask but it's not possible to begin Mat Leave before 29 weeks, and they cannot compel you to start it until 36 weeks.

You do need a proper risk assessment carried out by prison OH.

creamcheeseandlox Wed 20-Sep-17 07:19:36

I would be refusing to do anything unless a proper risk assessment is done. The service have a duty of care for you.

creamcheeseandlox Wed 20-Sep-17 07:19:36

I would be refusing to do anything unless a proper risk assessment is done. The service have a duty of care for you.

HopelesslydevotedtoGu Wed 20-Sep-17 14:49:58

Your employer can't just ignore your GP advice. If you have a Fit Note saying "you may be fit for work if.... Amended duties" then you can only work if you have those amended duties. Otherwise you go onto sick leave. For the dates your GP signs the note for.

Your manager should perform a pregnancy risk assessment. This can't overrule your GP's medical advice about what you can't do though.

I would expect a prison service to have access to an occupational health department where specialised doctors/ nurses can make an informed decision about your pregnancy and work. Your manager should refer you to this. Although you GP has signed you off your GP prob doesn't know much about working in a prison and alternative roles. However your GP note would stand whilst awaiting this appt.

You may want to ask colleagues who have been pregnant before who they got advice from and whether they know of any guidelines/ protocols about pregnancy. My manager told me there were no protocols but a month later I found one saying I shouldn't be doing aspects of my job!

When I was pregnant I found I had to be assertive with work. Unless I said directly "I can't do this as unsafe" no one stopped me from doing anything!

HopelesslydevotedtoGu Wed 20-Sep-17 14:54:27

Oh also do be proactive. Friend had a rubbish manager who said no need to amend her job. She disagreed but didn't escalate as didn't want to 'make a fuss'. She was later punched in the stomach in entirely predictable circumstances. As close to term she was induced as hospital worried about the baby. Baby was ok when born, but obviously having an induction prior to full term was not ideal.

Misswhitman Wed 20-Sep-17 16:10:52

The library has one general near the door. We are not provided whistles and it is not deemed necessary for me to have a radio. I work in a booth with a door within the library that does not have its own general alarm. I work in an establishment where prisoners are not forced compliance with medication so could deteriorate rapidly. I carry out initial assessments so I am meeting the women for the first time. At every given opportunity I am made to feel like I took my job in the knowledge I am pregnant (not true) and that I am doing everything I can to avoid prisoner contact. I only asked for a note from the doctor after I fainted, not because of concern for myself, more because I am concerned I would compromise the security of the jail and I know for fact that they would find a way to make it my fault should this happen. If I'm kicked in the stomach my company will blame me for not refusing to work with prisoners.

Flyingflipflop Wed 20-Sep-17 16:18:14

So they're asking you to sit in a room, without an alarm button or any way to raise the alarm if she kicks off?

Pregnant or not, they can go fuck off. That's not safe. I bet you also sit with your back to the wall and no easy access to the door?

Have a word with one of the screws or even see if you can have a quiet word with the POA rep. That is not safe and a potential hostage taking or severe beating.

I've had that kicking in a room I couldn't get out of and it's fucking scary. And I'm 6ft2 and spent my whole career in the tornado team. There is no way I would do it.

Misswhitman Wed 20-Sep-17 16:19:09

Also I have worked in male establishments for 5 years. I'd trust them to have my back a lot more than the women.

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