All employers have a responsibility to safeguard the health and safety of their employees and anybody else who may be impacted by their organisation under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations of 1999.
The National Regulatory Body for Health and Safety at Work, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), has produced guidelines for employers on how to protect the health and safety of pregnant workers. Among other things, these guidelines require that employers conduct risk assessments for all pregnant employees.
The general requirement for risk assessments should also include a risk assessment for pregnant staff members when there are women of childbearing age working in the organisation and the work is of a type that potentially includes danger to a new or expectant mother or her infant. Any procedures, working circumstances, or physical, chemical, or biological agents could be the cause of this, thus an evaluation of such hazards should be part of the general risk assessment. The company should conduct this evaluation right away rather than waiting until a woman becomes pregnant. If there is cause to believe the assessment is no longer valid or if the circumstances giving rise to it have significantly changed, the employer should revisit the evaluation.
Health and Safety Guidance on Separate Risk Assessments for Pregnant women and new mothers
Employers must do a personal pregnancy risk assessment for expectant women and new moms, according to HSE guidance. Employees who are pregnant, have recently given birth, or are presently nursing their infants must comply with the rule.
When an employee notifies their employer in writing that they are pregnant, the legal requirement becomes applicable. This does not, however, excuse the employer from the legal obligation to take into account hazards to women of childbearing age at work as part of the overall health and safety risk assessment. The fact that the advice may also apply to transgender, non-binary, and those who have different sex characteristics or who are intersex makes it an intriguing aspect of the advice.
A discrimination lawsuit against the company could emerge from failing to undertake a risk assessment, which also endangers the health and safety of the employee. An individual risk assessment, which should analyse the employer’s current general risk management and controls for pregnant workers and new moms, must be done after the company has been notified in writing.
They should also speak with the expectant employee to find out if there are any circumstances or medical issues that might influence their ability to perform their job. They should talk to their health and safety representative or trade union, if they have one, about any worries they have about how their jobs might influence their pregnancies.
The doctor or midwife treating the employee must provide the employer with any medical advice. Additionally, the findings must be documented and communicated to the employee by the employer.
What is to be included for Pregnant workers and new mothers
The potential dangers to the expectant mother or new mother should be included in the risk assessment, along with information on how these risks will be reduced or eliminated. The hazards must be evaluated in light of the particular worker and the job. A pregnant worker in a factory, for instance, faces greater dangers than one who works in an office. Here, some typical dangers are covered. This is not a comprehensive list of dangers, though, and it is important to identify the relevant risks based on the workplace.
- Position and posture: New moms and expectant employees may be more susceptible to injuries, which may not be apparent until after birth. Long periods of standing or sitting, as well as lifting and carrying heavy objects, might be risky for someone’s posture.
- Working conditions: Night work, shift work, and long hours can significantly affect the health of new moms, expectant mothers, and their offspring. Although not all workers will have the same effects, it is common for mental and physical exhaustion to rise during pregnancy and after delivery, which may result in weariness or post-natal depression.
- Avoid asking new moms or pregnant women to move large objects manually since they run the danger of suffering pain, injury, and/or miscarriage.
- Exposure to toxic substances: Pregnant employees and new mothers may be harmed by a variety of chemical and biological agents. Additionally, they can be transferred to the unborn kid through breastfeeding. To safeguard them, it may be required to ensure enough ventilation and reduce or do away with the amount of time the lady spends around chemicals.
- Workplace: Excessive heat or cold is particularly risky for pregnant women. Lack of ventilation and extreme temperatures can also lead to fainting and dehydration.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE): Pregnant workers are frequently not given special consideration while designing PPE. In particular as their pregnancy advances, employers must ensure that any PPE provided will be secure and pleasant for women to wear.
The list presented above is not all-inclusive. It is generally advised that the employer keep in touch with the employee throughout her pregnancy to ensure that any concerns that could endanger her safety are resolved.
What to do next
If an employer discovers a major risk to a worker who is pregnant or just gave birth, the company must first determine if the risk can be reduced or eliminated; if not, it must take the necessary steps to protect the worker.
To reduce the danger, the employer must modify the working environment or hours. If it cannot be done, appropriate replacement tasks should be provided. This needs to be relevant and suitable for the expectant or new mother, and it needs to be on the same terms and conditions, including pay. Employers are required to suspend employees on full pay for as long as is necessary to protect their health and safety as well as the protection of their child when alternative working arrangements and adjustments are not an option.
As the pregnancy progresses and for the first six months following childbirth, the employer should also periodically review the worker’s risk assessment to see if there have been any significant changes to the workers’ activities or workplace, and if so, take any necessary precautions to protect them. Contact us to get legal advice from our expert solicitors!