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Taking Care of New and Expectant Mothers at Work


The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSW), the Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992 and the Equality Act 2010 all set out how employers are required to protect the health and safety of new and expectant mothers at work.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSW), the Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992 and the Equality Act 2010 all set out how employers are required to protect the health and safety of new and expectant mothers at work.

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

Under Regulation 3 of the MHSW, employers have a legal duty to assess the health and safety risks that all their employees are exposed to at work, and then to action relevant health and safety measures so that the risks are controlled.

Regulations 16 to 18 specifically deal with health and safety requirements relating to new and expectant mothers at work, with 16 also requiring the risk assessment to include any specific risks to females of childbearing age who could become pregnant, and any risks to new or expectant mothers. The risks could arise during any process or working conditions or due to exposure to chemical, biological or physical elements.

When do an employer’s obligations to new and expectant mothers begin?

Once an employer has been notified in writing that an employee is a new or expectant mother, the employer's obligations begin.

Under Regulation 18 the employee should, in writing, notify her employer that she is either pregnant, or has given birth within the past six months, or that she is breastfeeding. As soon as this notification is received, employers must take action to remove, reduce or control any risks identified by the risk assessment that could affect the health and safety of a new or expectant mother or that of her baby, if those risks cannot be avoided by taking any required protective or preventive measures under other relevant health and safety legislation.

What if a risk cannot be removed?

Where it is not possible to remove a risk, employers are required to take the following actions, in order of priority:


  1. Adjust working conditions and / or hours of work
  2. Where available, offer suitable alternative work, at the same rate of pay
  3. Suspend work on paid leave for as long as required to protect the health and safety of the mother and her child


What if a new or expectant mother works night shifts?

If a new or expectant mother provides a medical certificate from her midwife or GP stating that working night shifts will be detrimental to her health, then the employer will be required to suspend her from work on full pay for as long as necessary. The Employment Rights Act 1996 however does state that, where possible, suitable alternative work should be offered on the same terms and conditions before suspension is considered.

Are individual risk assessments required for new or expectant mothers?

Whilst there is no legal requirement for employers to carry out risk assessments for individual new or expectant mothers further to those carried out under Regulation 3, many do undertake them where they feel that the general risk assessment no longer applies, or where they believe there to have been a considerable change to the matters to which it relates.

If an employer has reason to believe that, as the pregnancy progresses, the risks to the employee change, then the risk assessment should be reviewed accordingly. It is important to consider that different risks may apply at different stages of pregnancy.

What are the common hazards to new and expectant mothers?

Common hazards to consider in a risk assessment for new and expectant mothers include:

Physical hazards - manual handling; emergency evacuation; awkward spaces, workstations and posture; sitting or standing for prolonged periods; excessive workplace noise; exposure to shocks, vibrations and radiation

Working conditions - availability of welfare and rest facilities; low or high temperatures; ventilation; long working hours; lone working; remote working; threat of physical violence; workplace stress; extensive travelling or overseas travel; working at height, physical demands

Chemical hazards - exposure to hazardous chemicals, chemical agents and radioactive materials; inability to use personal protective equipment due to discomfort

Biological hazards - exposure to infectious diseases

Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992

Under the Workplace Regulations, employers must provide pregnant or breastfeeding workers with suitable rest facilities. These should be located somewhere suitable, for example close to rest rooms. Employers must also provide appropriate facilities for the employee to lie down.

Equality Act 2010

Any breach of the MHSW may be considered unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act. This depends upon the individual circumstances. Most types of workers are covered under the Act, including contract and agency workers and apprentices.

Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP)

Where an expectant mother experiences mobility problems or would have difficulty using a regular staircase to evacuate a building in the event of an emergency, a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) will need to be arranged in consultation with the company's fire safety officer. Where possible it may be helpful to relocate the employee to a lower or ground floor temporarily.

Support from PMR Solutions

If you would like to find out about how PMR Solutions can assist you as an employer in complying with the legislation that's in place to protect new and expectant mothers in the workplace, you are welcome to get in touch.

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