Pregnancy Risk Assessment

  • Risk Assessment
a pregnant woman sat at a desk
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

In this guide, we'll discuss pregnancy risk assessments, workplace risks, and measures you can implement to protect pregnant employees and new mothers.

Your workplace will likely employ women of childbearing age at some point. If a staff member becomes pregnant, it’s your legal duty to protect them in the workplace. You can do this by performing a pregnancy risk assessment.

This type of assessment evaluates the risks your workplace poses to pregnant employees. Failure to perform one could mean your business faces serious consequences. These include workplace injury, claims to an employment tribunal, and even reputational damage.

In this guide, we'll discuss pregnancy risk assessments, workplace risks, and measures you can implement to protect pregnant employees and new mothers.

What is a pregnancy risk assessment?

A pregnancy risk assessment assesses the risks a workplace poses to new - and expectant - mothers. It involves recording present hazards, assessing the likelihood of them causing harm, and implementing safety control measures.

Every employer must comply with the law when performing a workplace risk assessment, especially for pregnant women. It's a vital part of ensuring their Health & Safety in the workplace.

Are pregnancy risk assessments a legal requirement?

Yes, pregnancy risk assessments are a legal requirement for employers to perform. The Management of Health & Safety At Work Regulations 1999 state that you must also conduct individual risk assessments of your workers' specific needs.

For example, if a pregnant woman is unable to stand for long hours or long periods, or if they need a head rest for their chair. You should also evaluate whether they can still perform their usual workplace duties.

Who should carry out a pregnancy risk assessment?

A competent person within your business should carry out a risk assessment for pregnant workers and new mothers. Such persons assist you when reviewing Health & Safety risks in the workplace, by using their skills, knowledge and experience.

When picking a competent person in your workplace, ensure you consider the following questions:

  • Do they have the experience required to identify a Health & Safety risk?
  • Do they have the knowledge required to manage potential risks?
  • Do they know what significant changes need to be made?

If you fail to perform a risk assessment, you could face serious consequences. These consequences vary, but in rare instances, it could result in a pregnancy and maternity discrimination claim to an employment tribunal.

What are the steps of an individual risk assessment?

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) advises you to complete the following steps when performing an individual risk assessment:

  • Assess the existing general risk management within your company, as well as the measures in place that currently protect pregnant workers and new mothers.
  • Catch up with new mothers and pregnant workers in your workplace. Ask them if they have any conditions or circumstances that might affect their work.
  • Discuss the medical recommendations provided by their doctor or midwife regarding their pregnancy.
  • Consult with a safety representative or trade union official to review necessary control measures.
  • Address their concerns about how work could affect their pregnancy during its different stages.

If you cannot control or remove a risk to a pregnant employee or new mother, you must amend their working conditions or hours to avoid the risk. If that's not possible - according to The Employment Rights Act 1996 - they should be offered suitable alternative work.

Does an employer have to offer suitable alternative employment?

Yes, every employer must offer suitable alternative work to pregnant workers and new mothers -  if they're unable to perform their job without risk. The suitable alternative work you provide should include the same terms and conditions as their previous role.

If this isn't possible, your employee should be suspended on full pay. Suspension with full pay should continue for as long as the pregnant employee or new mother needs. Typically, as long as they need to protect themselves and the Health & Safety of their baby.

What are the rights of pregnant women and new mothers at work?

Pregnant women and new mothers have several Health & Safety rights. Ensure you're aware of them all so you know what they are entitled to. These include:

Pregnant workers also have the right to take maternity leave early, if the employee is off on sick leave in the four weeks prior to the baby's birth.

What is classed as pregnancy and maternity discrimination?

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is any unfair treatment towards a pregnant worker or new mothers. For a behaviour to class as unfair treatment, the pregnant employee or new mother must suffer a disadvantage as a result.

Under the 2010 Equality Act, pregnancy and maternity is a protected characteristic. This means pregnant workers and new mothers (up to six months - or 26 weeks - after they have given birth) are protected from discrimination.

For example, if an employer makes pregnant employees redundant because of pregnancy or pregnancy-related illness. Or if a new mother returns to work and their role has fundamentally changed. This might include their working hours and working conditions (e.g. if they are made to begin night working).

What factors should be considered in a pregnancy risk assessment?

There are several factors you need to consider in a pregnancy risk assessment. It's best practice to study them all so you know what to include in your workplace risk assessment. Examples of these factors include:

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE): Consider whether pregnant workers or new mothers need extra items of PPE (perhaps they need larger sizes as their pregnancy progresses).
  • Hazardous substances or biological agents: You should also evaluate your employee's exposure to hazardous substances. For example, if you work with solvents, acids or alcohols - you should measure the harm they could cause a pregnant woman and her baby.
  • Manual handling: It's important to assess whether your employee is carrying, pushing or pulling heavy loads. If so, you will likely need to provide them with suitable alternative work. But this is more relevant to pregnant women than new mothers.
  • Access to suitable facilities: You must consider whether employees have access to suitable and adequate facilities. For example, you might have a new mother who breastfeeds and needs a suitable space for her to express milk.

Make sure you monitor these factors as your employee's pregnancy progresses. Circumstances in your workplace might change, which could increase the likelihood of a hazard causing harm.

When should a pregnancy risk assessment be done?

A pregnancy risk assessment should be done as soon as an employee tells you they are pregnant. For example, when a worker tells you in writing that:

  • They've given birth within the last six months.
  • They're breastfeeding.

This law applies to permanent, temporary and agency workers. Ensure you review the risk assessment regularly in case new risks appear or circumstances change.

How to conduct a pregnancy risk assessment

Now you're aware of what pregnancy risk assessments are, it's time to conduct one. Follow the steps as closely as you can to ensure you comply with Health & Safety laws. These include:

  • Prepare accordingly: The first step in any Health & Safety risk assessment is to prepare accordingly. This includes asking a competent person to help you perform one, understanding what factors you need to consider, and how you plan to measure risks. You should also take into account the medical recommendations provided by a doctor or midwife.
  • Assess the safety risks: Now you've prepared, you must assess the safety risks your workplace poses. To do so, you should review your existing general risk management and how effective it is. Conduct a site walkaround and consider what hazards could specifically affect pregnant workers and new mothers. Take into account the likelihood of the hazard causing harm.
  • Record your findings: Once you've assessed the risks, you should record your findings. This will maintain your legal compliance - in the rare case it's questioned down the line. And will also help you should you ever need to refer back to measures you have made.
  • Implement necessary control measures: Finally, it's time to remove or reduce the Health & Safety risks. You can do this by implementing control measures and significant changes to your workplace, or offering suitable alternative work. Discuss these controls with your competent person - they should have the knowledge to advise what would work best.

Once you've completed the assessment, inform your worker of the risks you have identified, as well as the safety measures you have implemented. You might need to discuss suitable alternative work, or suspension on full pay if the health and safety risks cannot be sufficiently reduced.

It's your legal duty to care for your employees - so take the time to understand their needs, and what works best for them. Ultimately, it will help you create a more inclusive workplace where everyone feels safe enough to excel.

Get expert advice on pregnancy risk assessments from Peninsula

You must ensure you perform a pregnancy risk assessment for any pregnant workers in your business. This includes monitoring employees as their pregnancy progresses, removing safety issues at work, and complying with the law.

Failure to do so could mean you don't properly care for an employee's safety. Consequently, they might submit a claim to an employment tribunal, which could lead to financial loss and reputational damage.

Peninsula offers expert advice on pregnancy risk assessments. Our teams provide 24/7 Health & Safety advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our Health & Safety experts.

Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 028 2420 and book a free consultation with a Health & Safety consultant today.

 

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