Safeguarding pregnant workers

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17 Nov 2016

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What are the health and safety risks associated with pregnant and breastfeeding workers in the workplace? Stephen Thomas, Health & Safety Consultant at Croner, considers what action employers need to take when informed that an employee is pregnant or has recently given birth. Rest facilities All employers are required to provide suitable rest facilities at their premises for pregnant employees and those who are breastfeeding. The question of suitability will vary depending on the size and resources of the employer, but at the very least, an employer should provide a private area, away from other employees, where the pregnant or breastfeeding employee can put her feet up. Facilities for storing expressed breast milk should also be provided where possible. Risks to pregnant employees Particular risks to pregnant employees or to employees who have recently given birth include:

  • hazardous chemical or biological agents
  • heavy lifting
  • extremes of noise and pressure
  • radiation
  • excessive travelling
  • air travel
  • extremes of temperature
  • mental or physical fatigue.
How to assess the risks Any risk assessment must specifically consider the risks mentioned previously with reference to new or expectant mothers and their babies, whether or not the particular job is carried out by a woman. Many of these risk depend on the age of the foetus and whether the woman is pregnant or has given birth. How to deal with the risks If there is found to be a risk the employer should alter the employees’ working conditions or hours of work. If that is not reasonable or would not avoid the risk, the employer must offer suitable alternative work. If that is not available, the employer must suspend the employee. A woman with normal working hours who is suspended on maternity grounds should receive her usual week’s pay.

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