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Protecting pregnant workers and new mothers

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website guidance has changed. Individual risk assessments must now be carried out as well as reviewing general risk assessments that include new and expectant mothers.

Whatever work the person is involved in carrying out, you must carry out an individual risk assessment straight away, that is an assessment covering your worker’s specific needs, as soon as they have informed you in writing that they:

  • Are pregnant

  • Are breastfeeding, or

  • Have given birth in the last 6 months

Most employers have already been carrying out individual risks assessments previously, but this was normally based around HSE guidance stating that an employer may want to revisit their original, general risk assessment. The previous HSE guidance didn’t call on the need for an individual risk assessment.

Completing an Individual Risk Assessment

The manager must carry out an individual risk assessment with them. You should;

  • Review your existing general risk management and controls for pregnant workers and new mothers.

  • Talk to them to see if there are any conditions or circumstances with their pregnancy that could affect their work.

  • Discuss any concerns they have about how their work could affect their pregnancy.

  • Consult with their safety representative or trade union if they have one.

  • Make any necessary changes at work to support them.

The assessment should be reviewed frequently as different problems may arise during the different stages of the pregnancy (for example morning sickness may affect some women early on, while later their increased size may make manual handling tasks difficult).

General Risk Assessments

Pregnancy can often go undetected for the first 4-6 weeks and the unborn child is particularly vulnerable in the early months of pregnancy. Therefore, it is important that managers consider the risks to new and expectant mothers and/or their child when completing all risk assessments, taking any necessary action to ensure they would not be exposed to any significant risk. If risk assessments identify a specific risk to new or expectant mothers and/or their child, the employer should inform female staff of childbearing age about it and explain what controls are in place to ensure that they are not exposed to risks that could cause them, or their child, harm if they became pregnant or were breastfeeding.

Working Nights

When making decisions about night working, the employer must take account of any medical recommendations provided by the employee’s doctor or midwife. Pregnant workers and new mothers can work nights, but only if the work presents no risk to the health and safety of the employee or their child.

If suitable alternative daytime work is available on the same terms and conditions, this should be offered to the employee if;

  • The individual risk assessment has identified a risk from night work.

  • A doctor or midwife has provided a medical certificate stating they should not work nights.

If it is not possible to provide alternative daytime work, the employer must send the person home from work on paid leave for as long as necessary. This is to protect their health and safety and that of their child.

Gig Economy, Agency or Temporary Workers

If you employ gig economy, agency or temporary workers who are pregnant workers or new mothers, the employer will have duties under health and safety legislation.

If you have any questions, then Chameleon Safety Services are here to provide you with advise, please do not hesitate to get it touch with us on (01827) 488021 or email us on:

Written by: John Carver

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