A risk assessment when pregnant helps employers identify risks, check controls measures are in place and prevent harm. All organisations should have pregnancy policies and procedures in place which include a risk assessment procedure.
Workplace risk assessments identify risks to women of childbearing age with special consideration to new and expectant mothers. Risks which pose a particular threat to this group of people should be identified and managed as part of the general workplace risk assessment.
Legal obligations of pregnancy
The legal rights of new and expectant mothers in the workplace in the UK are protected by law. They include, appropriate health and safety measures, rest facilities for pregnant and breastfeeding women and protection from any unlawful discrimination due to pregnancy and maternity leave.
These rights are protected by three key pieces of legislation; Management of Health and Safety at Work 1999 (MHSW), Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 1992 (the Workplace regulations) and the Equality Act 2010.
Risk assessment responsibility
Once it is known an employee is a new or expectant mother the MHSW legislation protects them. Employers must then identify risks and manage them. Regulation 3 of MHSW places a legal duty on all employers to assess the health and safety risks at work. Therefore, a risk assessment is a legal requirement when pregnant.
All workers have a legal right to be protected from harm.Workplace risk assessments should identify risks to women of childbearing age with special consideration to new and expectant mothers. Risks which pose a particular threat to this group of people should be identified and managed as part of the general workplace risk assessment. For example, will they be handling substances which could be harmful such as biological or chemical agents? Does the work involve physical activities which are difficult or dangerous during pregnancy? Are the working conditions safe for a pregnant woman? Once risks are identified employers must take action to remove, reduce or control the risk.
When are women considered new and expectant mothers?
A new or expectant mother is a woman who is pregnant, has given birth within the last six months or is breastfeeding.
A woman must not have given birth to a living child to be considered a ‘new mother’. The MHSW defines ‘given birth’ as having ‘delivered a living child, or after 24 weeks of pregnancy, a stillborn child’. Therefore, a woman who has given birth to a stillborn child has the same rights as a woman who gave birth to a live one.
When should the workplace be told a woman is a new or expectant mother?
An employee has no legal obligation to tell their employer they are pregnant or even that they have given birth and are breastfeeding. However it is important for the mother and child’s health and safety that employers are told, in writing, as soon as possible. The early signs of pregnancy can now be detected soon after conception. Early pregnancy symptoms include morning sickness and tiredness. This can impact on the employees work so they may choose to inform their employer early. Many women wait until they are 12 weeks pregnant and have had their first scan before announcing a pregnancy. An employer can ask for a certificate from a GP or midwife to confirm the pregnancy.
Employers are not required to take further action until they have been given written notification of a pregnancy. Without this they have no responsibility to change working conditions or hours of work.
So, all organisations need to be aware of the law and how it impacts on new and expectant mothers. Employers must ensure they comply with the law and that treat employees fairly and protect their rights before, during and after her baby is born. Engage in Learning, an online training course provider offers a New and Expectant Mothers training course.