Protecting the health of pregnant workers: an employer’s responsibility

Mon 8th Jul 2019

Employment specialist at Coodes Solicitors, Philip Sayers, discusses the responsibilities of employers in ensuring the health and safety of pregnant employees.

A recent survey by the Equality and Human Rights Commission revealed that 41% of pregnant workers felt that their job risked the health of themselves and/or their baby. Unfortunately, there are instances in which women feel they have to decide between risking the health of their baby, or themselves, staying off sick or leaving the job altogether.

However, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that there is no risk to pregnant women in the workplace. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states that companies are required to protect the health and safety of new and expectant mothers.

The Equality Act 2010 also protects pregnant women and those on maternity leave against unfair treatment and discrimination.

What are the potential risks to pregnant workers?

Different types of businesses and places of work will bring about different risks. For example, a construction site will pose greater risks to pregnant workers than an office. Certain risks can compromise the health of the mother and/or the baby, while some are even linked to miscarriage and premature birth.

The Trades Union Congress and Maternity Action have a guide for employers on potential risks, as well as advice on facilities that need to be in place for new mothers returning to work.

Potential risks include:

  • Irregular and long working hours
  • Travelling and commuting
  • Hot working conditions
  • Stress
  • Chemical exposure
  • Working alone
  • Working at height

In every business, any potential risks need to be addressed by the employer.

What action does the employer need to take to protect pregnant workers?

Once the employer has completed a workplace risk assessment, they can then make reasonable adjustments to reduce the risks to the new or expecting mother.

Adjustments can include altering the workspace to make the employee feel more comfortable, introducing more flexible hours and offering extra breaks. It may also involve finding suitable alternative work within the company if the risk of their current role is too high. In the event that this is not possible, the employer can suspend the worker with full pay.

When does a pregnant employee have to notify their employer?

Workers must notify the business of their pregnancy by the 15th week before their due date. This is also known as the notification week. However, many employees choose to inform their employer at an earlier stage. Expectant mothers must inform the employer:

  • When they intent to go on maternity leave
  • That they want to receive statutory maternity pay

The employer must then confirm the date of the maternity leave in writing within 28 days of being notified.

Every employer should be aware of their responsibilities to ensure they provide pregnant workers with the protection they are entitled to.

For more information on this or any Employment enquiries contact Philip Sayers, Employment team, Coodes Solicitors on 01872 246200 or philip.sayers@coodes.co.uk

Mon 8th Jul 2019

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