Pregnant workers law changed
The law says that employers must provide safe working environments and manage risks to the health and safety of workers. This includes women of childbearing age.
Employers have always been required to conduct a general workplace risk assessment. However, the HSE has issued updated guidance to clarify that all employers must now provide an individual risk assessment, covering that workers’ specific needs.
Risks at work during pregnancy
Postural problems can occur at many stages of pregnancy, as well as after childbirth. They can have long-term consequences.
Employers are responsible for making sure that new and expectant mothers do not:
- Sit or stand for long periods
- Carry or lift heavy loads
- Use a workstation that causes postural difficulties
Working long shifts, working with stress or pressure and with extreme temperatures can also cause significant health risks for pregnant workers. Mental and physical fatigue generally increase during pregnancy.
Exposure to harmful substances, such as chemical or biological agents, can also pose significant risks.
What do I have to do?
When a worker tells you in writing that they are pregnant, you must conduct an individual risk assessment and make any necessary changes. Health and safety laws also apply to contracting (gig or self-employed) workers too.
The laws apply when a worker tells you they are pregnant, breastfeeding or have given birth in the last six months.
The HSE advise that employers:
- Review the existing general risk management and controls for pregnant workers and new mothers
- Talk to workers to see if there are any conditions or circumstances with their pregnancy that could affect their work
- Discuss any concerns
- Consult with their safety representative or trade union of they have one
The law also says you must review the risk assessment at different stages throughout the pregnancy and make any necessary adjustments.
What if I find a risk?
The HSE are very clear in the guidance made available for employers. If a risk is identified, the employer must first decide if they can control the risk. The HSE has free tools available to help control risks.
If the risk cannot be controlled the employer must adjust the working conditions or hours to avoid the risk. If this is not possible, suitable alternative work must be provided. This must be on the same terms and conditions and the same pay.
If none of the options are possible to control the risk, the worker must be suspended on full pay.
There are a huge number of laws that apply to pregnant workers, with which employers must be compliant, including the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, the Pregnant Workers Directive, the Employment Rights Act 1996, Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and the Equality Act 2010.