Protection During Pregnancy
Certain work activities may put pregnant employees or their unborn child at greater risk of harm. The following advice is for employees who are pregnant or planning to have a child and their managers. It describes the steps that they need to take to ensure the health and safety of a pregnant employee and her unborn child.
What the law requires
The law requires that employers identify hazards in the workplace that could pose a health and safety risk to new or expectant mothers and inform women employees of childbearing age.
Once an employee notifies her manager that she is pregnant suitable controls measures must be put into place to protect her and her unborn child.
Pregnant women and nursing mothers should also be provided with facilities to rest.
What women employees need to do
Most of you will be working in low hazard environments, but some employees may be carrying out work that puts them at greater risk of harm if pregnant. For example you may be working with substances or agents that are hazardous to an unborn child, or carrying out physically demanding work.
If you are planning to have a child, find out what the risks are early. The generic assessment below covers typical low risk environments. The risk assessments for your work activities should also include risks to pregnant workers. If additional precautions are needed to protect pregnant workers, you will need to notify your manager as soon as you know you are pregnant, so that s/he can review the assessment with you and put the precautions into place.
If you are pregnant you should normally discuss your pregnancy in confidence with your line manager. However, if you feel uneasy about this for whatever reason, you can speak to the Human Resources Advisor for your department /section. He/she will discuss the matter with you and facilitate the necessary discussion with your line manager.
If you have specific health concerns relating to your pregnancy, you can self refer to occupational health (see What to do if there are specific health concerns below)
You will find links to further useful information below.
What managers need to do
In most cases the assessment will be straight forward. A generic risk assessment is provided below. It covers the typical risks found in most low risk workplaces. Those responsible for higher risk areas should also refer to the section below.
When the employee notifies you that she is pregnant, go through the assessment with her and agree what adjustments need to be made to her work and record it on the assessment. The assessment should be reviewed periodically throughout the pregnancy.
You also need to agree with the employee what facilities will be provided should she need to rest whilst at work. Employees who have children at the Day Nursery can use Day Nursery facilities.
The assessment may also need to be reviewed if she returns from maternity leave or attends for Keeping in Touch days whilst she is still breastfeeding.
If you need help with using the generic assessment, speak to your HR Adviser (Tel 3433; e-mail staffing) or a Health and Safety Adviser (Tel 2944; e-mail safety).
What to do if you have specific health concerns about your pregnancy
Pregnancy is not an illness, however some expectant mothers may have underlying health conditions or may have been advised by their doctor of particular health concerns relating to their pregnancy.
In these circumstances you should either contact Occupational Health directly (Tel 2399; e-mail ohquery), or ask your manager to refer you. You should do this at the earliest opportunity, so that the University can take appropriate steps to safeguard you and your child. You will need to provide the Occupational Health Adviser with a copy of the risk assessment (if available), your job description, and details of any medical advice your doctor has provided (e.g. on either the Med 3 or MAT B1).
You can also contact Occupational Health for advice if you have concerns about health risks associated with your work (for example because you work with radiation or substances that can harm an unborn child).
What to do for higher risk activities
Significant hazards to new and expectant mothers that line managers should be aware of include:
Physically demanding work: including lifting heavy loads, repetitive work, frequent bending, prolonged standing.
Exposure to hazardous substances and agents: Use of certain chemical hazards (carcinogens and teratogens), Work with Ionising radiation, Work with biological agents or increase risk of exposure to infectious agents (e.g. nursery workers may be exposed to Rubella). Exposure to excessive noise or vibration
Working conditions: Night or shift work, working long hours, prolonged travel, stressful work (for example through dealing with emergencies or unpredictable situations). Exposure to risk from violence, working at height, hazardous machinery. Work requiring the wearing of personal protective equipment (as pregnancy may affect fit).
Your existing risk assessments for your work activities should identify how pregnant workers will be protected from these risks and you should ensure you inform women of childbearing age about the risk. Once an employee informs you that she is pregnant, review the assessment with her and agree (and record) the precautions that will be put into place to protect her. These can be recorded in the Additional hazards/risks section of the generic risk assessment given above.
If you need advice on risk assessment for higher risk activities please contact a Health and Safety Adviser (Tel 2944; e-mail safety).
What to do if the risk cannot be controlled
In a few cases it may be necessary to significantly adjust an employees working conditions or hours, give her alternative work or to suspend her from work on full pay. If you think this may be necessary speak to your HR Adviser (Tel 3433; Email staffing)
What about Students?
The University also has a duty of care to pregnant students. Risk assessments should also identify whether a teaching activity (for example certain laboratory work) would put a pregnant student at risk and the precautions needed for their protection. Student Support have specific guidance on risk assessment for pregnant students and can assist with the risk assessment process. Please refer to their website at: http://www2.essex.ac.uk/stdsup/welfare/pregnancy.shtm
- Rest facilities: Employees and students who have children at the Day Nursery can use Day Nursery facilities.
- The following Health and Safety Executive website contains general
health and safety information for pregnant workers and their employers:
- Maternity Leave Benefits (Human Resources)
- Maintain a good sitting posture by adjusting your workstation:
DSE and Pregnancy - adjusting your workstation
- HSE advice on working with Ionising Radiation for expectant and breastfeeding mothers
- HSE advice on infection risks to new and expectant mothers
- NHS / Faculty of Medicine / RCP advice on physical and shift work in pregnancy