Pregnancy should not be equated with ill health. It should be regarded as part of everyday life and its health and safety implications can be adequately addressed by normal health and safety management procedures. Many women work while they are pregnant, and many return to work while they are still breastfeeding. Some hazards in the workplace may affect the health and safety of new and expectant mothers and of their children.
The law at present requires that risks are assessed, including new and expectant mothers, and to do what is reasonably practicable to control those risks. Exposure limits for hazardous substances and other agents are set at levels which should not put a pregnant or breastfeeding worker, or her child, at risk. In some cases, there are lower exposure levels for pregnant workers, or for women of childbearing capacity, than for other workers.
Legislation to help pregnant workers is contained in the Management of Health and
Safety at Work Regulations 1999. It specifically requires that particular account is taken of risks to new and expectant mothers when assessing risks of the work activity. Once the employer is aware of the pregnancy it will be necessary to review any risk assessments relating to the work activity of the pregnant worker. If a risk cannot be avoided it may be necessary to make changes to working conditions or hours, offer suitable alternative work, or if that is not possible give the worker paid leave for as long as necessary to protect her health or safety or that of her child. The Regulation requires this to be done when the employer has been told in writing that a worker is pregnant. They also provide for the employer to request in writing a certificate from a registered Medical Practitioner, or a registered midwife, confirming the pregnancy.
This guidance sets out the known risks to new and expectant mothers and gives advice what needs to be done to comply with the law.
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The phrase 'new or expectant mother’ means a worker who is pregnant, who has given birth within the previous six months, or who is breastfeeding. 'Given birth' is defined in the new Regulations as 'delivered a living child or, after 24 weeks of pregnancy, a stillborn child’.
In assessing risks to employees it is necessary to pay attention to workers who are new or expectant mothers, and to take action to ensure that they are not exposed to any significant risk. Risks include those to the unborn child or child of a woman who is still breastfeeding - not just risks to the mother herself.
The risk assessment should be updated on a regular basis during the employee’s pregnancy, in order to make relevant adjustments and a
Physical, biological and chemical agents, processes and working conditions may all affect the health and safety of new or expectant mothers. The risk assessment may show that there is a substance or work process in the workplace that could damage the health or safety of new or expectant mothers or their children. It will be necessary to bear in mind that there could be different risks depending whether workers are pregnant, have recently given birth or are breastfeeding, e.g. manual handling of loads.
When undertaking a risk assessment, the following should be considered:
5.1 Manual handling
In addition to the standard risk assessment for manual handling (Manual Handling
Operations Regulations 1992), managers should consider the following:
Hormonal changes may affect ligaments making them more susceptible to injury
Postural and dexterity problems increase as the pregnancy develops due to increased size
Risks should be reassessed on an ongoing basis
5.2 Work with display screen equipment (DSE)
There are no particular risks associated with DSE although there are a number of factors which need to be considered in addition to the standard DSE assessment:
Sitting for long periods should be avoided. Breaks from a seated position can help to promote good circulation and posture.
DSE assessment should be updated on an ongoing basis with consideration of the seating posture, chair support and, as the pregnancy develops, the organisation of the workstation.
As the pregnancy develops, and the expectant mother increases in size, it is important to ensure that there is sufficient space to move around at the workstation.
Posture and mobility issues may cause discomfort
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5.3 Ergonomics and posture
Pregnant workers are more at risk of fatigue caused by work demands such as standing or sitting for long periods. Postural problems can occur due to increasing size.
Dexterity, coordination, speed of movement, reach and balance may be impaired leading to a higher risk of slips trips and falls.
Standing for long periods may lead to dizziness, faintness, fatigue and backache
Driving duties, where applicable, should be assessed
Consider a change in the work pattern and / or introduce more frequent breaks to allow for regular change of posture.
Protective clothing may need to be changed due to the increasing size of the
Consider a change to the work location for comfort reasons if the working space is particularly small or confined.
Reassess relevant Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) assessments taking into account the specific risk phrases as outlined below
Working with substances which may present a risk to the mother and / or child
– remove the mother from specific high risk activities as appropriate.
R39 danger of very serious irreversible effects
R40 limited evidence of carcinogenic effects
R45 May cause cancer
R46 May cause heritable genetic damage
R49 May cause cancer by inhalation
R61 May cause harm to the unborn child
R63 Possible risk of harm to the unborn child
R64 May cause harm to breast fed babies
R68 Possible risk of irreversible effects
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publish a list of risk phrases link to: http://www.hse.gov.uk/chip/phrases.htm
If any of the hazards associated with COSHH are present in your workplace you should refer to the relevant regulations for information.
5.5 Biological Agents
Exposure to certain bacteria and viruses e.g. rubella and cytomegalovirus can present an increased risk to the mother and the unborn child.
Review exposure and advise of increase in risk
Check if the woman is a first aider and is aware of good practice for first aiders
Avoid contact with chicken pox between weeks 13
– 20 and in the later stages.
Ensure good workplace hygiene and infection control
Advise contact with OH or GP if there are concerns
Where exposure is possible as a direct result of their work, restrictions should be imposed to prevent the exposure.
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5.5 Extremes of cold and heat
Heat and cold tolerance decreases with pregnancy
Rest facilities and access to refreshments should be available
Prolonged exposure to excessive heat should be avoided
Dehydration should be avoided
5.6 Work with animals
This is mainly relevant to pregnant or breastfeeding women working outdoors.
Pregnant women should avoid coming into contact with pregnant or milking ewes and any newborn lambs as sheep may carry toxoplasmosis, listeriorosis or chlamydiosis organisms.
5.7 Lone, or out of hours working
Revisit and reassess relevant risk assessments for lone and out of hours work
HSE identifies that a pregnant woman may be more likely to need urgent medical attention so this should be considered in a lone working situation.
It is necessary to give special consideration to new and expectant mothers who work at night. The Regulations require that if an employee who is a new or expectant mother works at night, and has a medical certificate stating that night work could affect her health or safety, then she should be:
Reassess relevant risk assessments
Pregnant women should avoid coming into contact with cat faeces due to the risk
of toxoplasmosis (for information www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk
The emptying of cat litter trays should be avoided if possible. If this is not avoidable, then disposable non latex gloves should be worn and hands washed thoroughly afterwards.
Hands should be washed thoroughly after contact with cats o
offered suitable alternative daytime work it any is available
(Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act), or if that is not reasonable o
suspended from work (on full pay) for as long as is necessary to protect her health or safety (Management of Health and Safety ay
Work Regulations 1999).
There is no specific evidence to suggest that a pregnant, or breast feeding woman should not be working at night, however, fatigue may be a problem as sleeping patterns may alter with pregnancy and with breastfeeding.
If the woman is having problems with night work and her GP advises her not to work at night, providing a certificate is submitted, night work must be suspended for the period of time indicated on the certificate. Alternative daytime work should be offered. This should be discussed with Human Resources.
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If an employee states that she cannot work at night, and if there is a question as to
whether the cause arises from her work it may be necessary to seek advice from the University Occupational Health Provider.
5.8 Exposure to violence
Review the violence at work risk assessment. Is there a risk to the mother or unborn child?
There may be a need to minimise travel if this is a requirement of the job.
Foreign travel may need a certificate from a GP
Travel abroad after 36 weeks is generally restricted
Vaccination and infection issues should be discussed with OH or GP
Where travel to and from work can be flexible, pregnant women may prefer to avoid rush hour traffic in order to reduce travelling time, obtain seats on public transport, avoid crush and crowded places etc.
5.10 Fatigue, discomfort and stress
Excessive physical or psychological pressure may lead to stress which may lead to raised blood pressure and interfere with breast feeding, as well as a number of other undesirable health effects.
Discuss working hours
– temporary shorter hours and greater control over the working day may improve psychosocial pressure and fatigue
Encourage good time management
Expectant mothers are more likely to need more frequent visits to the toilet and this must be taken into consideration with regard to the work pattern and access to toilets etc.
As the expectant mother increases in size, consideration should be given to the suitability of uniform (if worn) and personal protective equipment (PPE)
There may be some problems with the woman being able to get to her place of work, especially in the later stages of pregnancy. She may have problems climbing stairs so consideration may need to be given to relocating the place of work in buildings without lifts. Home working may be a consideration and would require an additional risk assessment.
5.11 Nausea and sickness
Exposure to cooking smells and chemical odours may increase morning sickness, so consider relocation away from an area where there is exposure. If morning sickness is severe, consideration to adjustment in working hours may be helpful. Sickness may not be confined to morning, so this should be part of the consideration.
A suitable private room should be available for a pregnant or breastfeeding woman to rest
The facilities should include privacy for a woman to express and store breast milk
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As well as the employee being assessed, if the assessment reveals a risk to any female employee of child-bearing capacity, such employees should be informed about the potential risks, if they are, or could in the future be pregnant or breastfeeding. It should also be explained what will be done to make sure that new and expectant mothers are not exposed to the risks that could cause them harm.
If a significant risk to the health or safety of a new or expectant mother has been identified, it will be necessary decide what action to be taken. There may be a significant risk, say from a chemical which is covered by the COSHH Regulations. If so, it will normally be doing enough if the requirements of the specific regulations are followed. As a general rule consideration should be given in all cases to removing the hazard or seek to prevent exposure to the risk. Where this is not feasible the risk should be controlled.
If there is still a significant risk at work to the safety or health of a new or expectant mother, which goes beyond the level of risk to be expected outside the workplace then the following steps to remove her from the risk should be taken.
temporarily adjust her working conditions and/ or hours of work; or if it is not reasonable to do so, or would not avoid the risk offer her suitable alternative work if any is available; or if that is not feasible, she must be suspended from work (give her paid leave) for as long as necessary to protect her safety or health or that of her child.
These actions are only necessary where as the result of a risk assessment there is genuine concern. If there is any doubt, it may be necessary to seek professional advice on what the risks are and whether they arise from work before offering alternative employment or paid leave. Please see
for more details about ‘removal from risk.
It will be necessary to keep the risk assessments for new or expectant mothers under review. Although any hazards are likely to remain constant, the possibility of damage to the foetus as a result of a hazard will vary at different stages of pregnancy. There are different risks to consider for workers who are breastfeeding.
It will be necessary to ensure that workers who are breastfeeding are not exposed to risks that could damage health or safety for as long as they continue to breastfed. The
Regulations do not put a time limit on breastfeeding. While many women may stop after the first six weeks, the Department of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first four to six months. After that time, breastfeeding can be continued with advantage, together with the introduction of solid food. It is for women themselves to decide for how long they wish to breastfeed, depending on individual circumstances.
Although there is no legal requirement to do so it may be necessary to consider providing a safe and healthy environment for workers who are breastfeeding to express and store milk. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require suitable facilities to be provided for workers who are pregnant or breastfeeding to rest.
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Where workers continue to breastfeed for many months after birth, it will be necessary to review the risks regularly. Where risks are identified, it will be necessary to continue following the three steps to avoid exposure to the risk, that is adjustment of working hours/conditions, alternative work or paid leave for as long as it threatens the health and safety of a breastfeeding worker or her child. The main concern is exposure to lead, which can enter breast milk. Where employers are controlling risks in line with regulations, it is unlikely that workers who continue breastfeeding will be exposed to risks which give rise to the need for them to be offered alternative work or given paid leave. f there are any doubts, it may be necessary to call on professional advice from occupational health specialists.
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The guidance has explained the steps that should be taken when it is necessary to remove a new or expectant mother from a significant risk. The legislation that requires you to take action is as follows
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires, as the first possibility, the employee's working conditions and/or hours of work to be temporarily adjusted.
Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 if the above requirement is not reasonable or could not avoid the risk, a new or expectant mother has a right to be offered suitable alternative work, if any is available.
The work must be:
suitable and appropriate for her to do in the circumstances; and on terms and conditions no less favourable than her normal terms and conditions.
An employee is entitled to make a complaint to an Industrial Tribunal if there is suitable alternative work available which her employer has failed to offer to her before suspending her from work on maternity grounds.
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states if suitable alternative work cannot be provided, then the employee must be suspended from work.
Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 states an employee suspended from work on these grounds is entitled to be paid remuneration - that is, wages or salary - at the full normal rate for as long as the suspension continues. The only exception is where she has unreasonably refused an offer of suitable alternative work, in which case no remuneration is payable for the period during which the offer applies.
If an employee has both a statutory right and a contractual right to remuneration during maternity suspension, such entitlements can be offset against each other.
The employee continues to be employed during the maternity suspension period, which therefore counts towards her period of continuous employment for the purposes of assessing seniority, pension rights and other personal length-or-service payments, such as pay increments. There is, however, no statutory requirement for contractual benefits apart from remuneration to be continued during the maternity suspension itself. This, like most other terms and conditions of employment, remains a matter for negotiation and agreement on a voluntary or contractual basis between the parties concerned. Employers should however ensure they are not acting unlawfully under the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Sex
Discrimination Act 1975.
An employee whose employer fails to pay her some or all of the remuneration due for any day of maternity suspension is entitled to make a complaint to an Industrial Tribunal.
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Are there any hazards present?
Employees of the
Reduce or remove if possible
S/HR/Policies/Maternity/New & Expectant Mums Risk Assessment GUIDANCE (June 08)
Inform workers of the need to notify you of the pregnancy or if they are breastfeeding or have given birth in the last six months, as early as possible
Monitor and review
Has a risk been identified?
Can the risk be removed?
Can the mother’s working conditions / hours be adjusted?
Adjust conditions / hours
Suspend her from work on paid leave for as long as necessary to protect her health and safety, or that of her child
Can she be given suitable alternative work?
Give suitable alternative work on same terms and conditions
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