Ask the HR Expert: Health and safety provisions for pregnant employees

Peninsula Team

October 14 2011

What workplace changes should I introduce for a pregnant employee? Is it my responsibility to accommodate health and safety provisions to ensure her welfare? Because often the early stages of pregnancy go undetected, even from the pregnant employee, employers should have carried out a general assessment of risks to women of child bearing age. The purpose of this assessment is to identify hazards such as exposure to radiation and mutagenic chemical substances that could damage the health of a pregnant woman or her fetus. Wherever any such hazards are identified employees should be informed of their existence and of the risks that they face. Working procedures and practices may need to be adapted to ensure their health and safety. When you receive notification of a pregnancy from one of your staff it is your obligation to protect the employee from physical, chemical and biological risks as her pregnancy develops. So, in practice this means that you should carry out regular meetings with her to assess the impact of her pregnancy on her work. You could find that your pregnant employee may find it increasingly difficult to stand or sit for long periods of time, and find it especially difficult to lift or carry loads. Similarly you need to be aware of exposure to occupational stress, even be aware that extremes of temperature in the office that could cause discomfort for your employee. There are a number of other hazards that you will need to safe proof from, such as; shocks, vibration, electrical and magnetic fields, noise, radiation, biological agents, chemicals and gas can lead to complications. In these situations you will need to make adjustments. Ideally you will be trying to eliminate risks by providing additional equipment, by reducing her working hours, rotating jobs, etc. If you are unable to make adjustments to her normal work that will allow her to continue to work without increased risk to her or the unborn child you are obliged to try to find her alternative work. If you cannot meet these obligations you will have to suspend her from work on paid leave for as long as is necessary to protect her health and safety, or that of the child. Further advice to Peninsula clients can be obtained by calling our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.

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