How to do a risk assessment for a pregnant employee

Maternity pay

As set out by the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, risk assessments are the law no matter what industry your business operates in. But when it comes to completing a risk assessment for a pregnant woman or a new mother, there are additional things that you as the employer should consider.

The Health and Safety at Work Regulations say that new or expectant mothers include pregnant women, women who have given birth within six months and breastfeeding women. New or expectant mothers can have their hours or work conditions adjusted accordingly if their working environment becomes risky to themselves or their child.

Completing a risk assessment

You as the employer should have completed a general risk assessment for every employee in your company when they began working for you. When an employee tells you that she is pregnant, you’ll need to revisit this risk assessment and ensure that no circumstances have changed that could be an issue for the mother/baby. If there are potential risks, you should aim to reduce them or remove them completely.

If such risks cannot be minimised or removed, then the employee’s working hours or working conditions need to be adjusted. If this is still not possible, suitable alternative work may need to be provided. For example, you could offer her something in a different department or something that requires less manual work. The Health and Safety Work Regulations 1999 state that if none of the above options are available, the employee should be suspended from the workplace for as long as necessary with full pay.

You cannot take any of the steps above until your employee has notified you in writing that she is pregnant, a new mother or breastfeeding.

As an employer, it is your responsibility to assess the health and safety risks for the expectant or new mother. You should frequently monitor the workplace and check that no other dangers have arisen since the risk assessment.

What counts as a ‘risk’?

The Health & Safety Executive has laid out the following risks that employers should be mindful of:

Physical agents

  • Movements and postures
  • Manual handling
  • Shocks and vibrations
  • Noise
  • Radiation (ionising and non-ionising)
  • Compressed air and diving
  • Underground mining work

Biological agents

  • Infectious diseases

Chemical agents

  • Toxic chemicals
  • Mercury
  • Antimitotic (cytotoxic) drugs
  • Pesticides
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Lead

Working conditions

  • Facilities (including rest rooms)
  • Mental and physical fatigue
  • Stress (including post-natal depression)
  • Passive smoking
  • Temperature
  • Working with visual display units (VDUs)
  • Working alone
  • Working at night
  • Travelling
  • Violence
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Nutrition

You should consider which points will affect your business and include the relevant ones in every employees’ risk assessment. This should then be revisited with a pregnant employee to ensure that there are no additional hazards.

What rights do pregnant employees have?

Every employee is protected from workplace discrimination due to the Equal Rights Act 2010. However, additional rights may apply to pregnant staff.

A pregnant employee has the right to take time off work for antenatal appointments, including the time to travel to the clinic or GP, without loss of pay. This also applies to any employee who has a doctor’s appointment of any kind. You can’t ask the pregnant employee to make up the time or to arrange the appointment for a time outside of their working hours.

If an employee declares a task too risky, you cannot dismiss them for not undertaking the work properly. You should take another look at their risk assessment and modify it accordingly.

Finally, you cannot refuse annual leave to a pregnant employee. They are allowed to take it whenever they want, even just before they go on maternity leave. They will continue to accrue annual leave whilst on maternity leave, so they can also take it before returning to work.

Can you make a pregnant employee redundant?

You can make a pregnant employee redundant, but only if the redundancy is due to one of the following reasons:

  • When fewer employees are required for the existing workload
  • When the business moves and employees can no longer travel there easily
  • When the business closes, either temporarily or permanently

The employee will still get Statutory Maternity Pay, but only if the employment ends a maximum of 15 weeks before the baby is due. For example, if a worker is 26 weeks pregnant, she will still qualify for 39 weeks maternity pay.

If the employee is made redundant more than 15 weeks before the baby is due, they won’t get statutory maternity pay but they might still qualify for maternity allowance.

How can Citation help?

While we can’t fill out your risk assessments for you, we can make the entire process hassle-free. When you partner with Citation, our risk assessment service provides you with complete support from qualified experts.

You also get instant access to Atlas, our online management platform. This will give you the perfect introduction to completing risk assessments with confidence, with access to over 1,000 risk assessment templates and digital storage, distribution and email reminders for review.

Sound like something your business could benefit from? Just fill in the form on this page or call the team on 0345 844 1111 to get the ball rolling.

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