Ask Gavin: I don’t know how to support my pregnant employee. Help!

  • Health & Safety
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Gavin Scarr-Hall - Director of Health & Safety at Peninsula

Gavin Scarr Hall, Director of Health and Safety

(Last updated )

Whenever a staff issue comes up, Peninsula advisers are on hand to help. There’s no query too big, too small, or too bizarre for our experts to unpack. So, if you’re sitting on a query, don’t hesitate to ask. It’s what keeps our Peninsula clients safe and successful all year round and gives them the peace of mind to focus on their business.

This caller wanted to know how they could support their pregnant employee in work. So they asked Gavin Scarr Hall, Peninsula’s Director of Health & Safety, for expert advice…

Here’s what they had to say…

Hi Gavin,

My employee recently told me they’re pregnant. I’m over the moon for them and I know they’re very excited about becoming a parent. I just want to make sure I’m doing everything on my end to support them at work. I’m in retail you see, and my employee spends a lot of time on their feet dashing about the supermarket floor and they can work long hours. Sometimes, they do nights as well. I’m just wondering what my obligations are? Or is that up to them to let me know if they need anything?

All the best,

Anon

Gavin’s reply was…

First of all, congratulations to your employee on their pregnancy.

It’s great that you want to take steps to support your employee and absolutely, there are things you’ll need to do if you haven’t already.

“I just want to make sure I’m doing everything on my end to support them at work”

The best place to start would be to sit down with your employee and have a proper conversation. You can ask your employee if there’s anything they need from you to support them in work. And if they’re not sure there and then, give them some time to think about it and get back to you.

Even if they don’t say they need anything specific, you’ll still need to do some investigating yourself. This means carrying out a pregnancy risk assessment.

You’ll need to make sure your workplace is a safe and comfortable environment for your pregnant employee. So, you’ll have to identify any ways they could be at risk in their job role and any hazards they could face in your workplace.

It may be helpful for your employee to share any medical recommendations with you from their GP or midwife. So you can get a clearer idea of what adjustments you might need to make.

“I’m in retail you see, and my employee spends a lot of time on their feet dashing about the supermarket floor and they can work long hours”

It sounds to me like there are already some pretty clear health & safety hazards there. As part of your pregnancy risk assessment, HSE says you should consider the following:

  • Posture and position – where the job requires your employee to sit or stand for long periods, lift or carry heavy loads, or use a workstation that could lead to posture problems.
  • Working conditions – the health risks of working long hours in a hot or noisy workplace and issues around stress and fatigue.
  • Physical injury risks – where your employee works alone, at height, or in a position where they could be at risk of violence at work.
  • Exposure to harmful substances – where your employee could be exposed to chemical or biological agents on the job.

If you identify any risks, you’ll have to take steps to reduce or remove them (which I’ll come to shortly).

Following this, you should continue to review your pregnancy risk assessment every four weeks to ensure your pregnant employee is getting the right support they need.

“Sometimes, they do nights as well”

As for working nights, your pregnant employee should be able to do this as long as their work doesn’t put them or their child at risk.

But if from your pregnancy risk assessment, you do find that there’s risk attached to your employee doing night work or a health professional has recommended they don’t do it, you should give them day work instead.

“I’m just wondering what my obligations are?”

You mention your employee spends a lot of time on their feet and they can work for long hours. As both of these things present risks to your employee’s health, you would need to look at how to reduce those risks.

One way you could do this is to change your employee’s hours or job responsibilities for the duration of their pregnancy, so they don’t have to be on their feet for so long and get plenty of time to rest.

If you choose to offer your employee alternative work, remember you would need to make sure to keep their terms and conditions the same.

If you think your employee could be at an unavoidable risk by doing their job and you can’t offer them an alternative position, you would need to suspend them on full pay temporarily.

Alternatively, you could be in a position where you don’t believe your employee is at risk, but they do. In this case, you should seek advice from a Health & Safety professional or a trade union representative on how to handle the matter.

It’s also important to bear in mind that during pregnancy, your employee is entitled to take paid time off work to attend antenatal appointments. But aside from the first appointment, you can ask your employee to show you a medical certificate and appointment card as evidence of their appointments. So you will need to prepare for frequent absences and plan accordingly.

I realise this sounds like a lot to consider so if you’d like to go through this over the phone, you can book in for a free advice call with one of our experts. Just tap below to leave a few details and someone would be happy to support you with any queries you might have.

Again, all the best to your employee and let us know if you’re unsure of anything!

Gavin

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