Is my employer legally required to take any steps to ensure the health and safety of me and my baby?
Yes. All employers who have workers of child-bearing age must conduct a health and safety assessment which assesses risks for pregnant and breastfeeding women. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website sets out your employer’s obligations and frequently asked questions.
Failure to take steps to avoid risks may be pregnancy discrimination.
The person for whom you work will need to make an adjustment to your work if a health and safety risk is identified, and it is reasonable. For more detail see: https://www.gov.uk/agency-workers-your-rights/maternity-rights-for-agency-workers.
There is a flow chart which sets out the steps your employer must take: //www.hse.gov.uk/mothers/docs/pregnant-workers-flow-chart.pdf which include:
- Carrying out a general risk assessment to assess the risks to the health and safety of all employees including women of child-bearing age and pregnant women
- Assessing any risks and reducing or removing them if possible.
- Informing you of the risks identified and the importance of informing the employer when you become pregnant.
- Revisiting the general risk assessment to see if a risk has been identified and removing it if possible, after you have told your employer you are pregnant.
- Adjusting working conditions to avoid a risk, if it is reasonable to do so.
- Offering any suitable alternative work which is available (this must be on same pay as your normal role).
- Suspending you on full pay, if there is no suitable alternative work.
Examples provided by the Health and Safety Executive include:
- lifting/carrying heavy loads
- standing or sitting still for long lengths of time
- exposure to infectious diseases
- exposure to lead
- exposure to toxic chemicals
- work-related stress
- workstations and posture
- exposure to radioactive material
- threat of violence in the workplace
- long working hours
- excessively noisy workplaces
No, your employer does not have to carry out a specific risk assessment, if there is already a risk assessment, which looked at the risks for pregnant women in your workplace. But, if there is a particular health and safety risk to you, for example, if you have a back problem which is made worse because of your pregnancy and you lift heavy objects, then your employer should take steps to remove that risk. See: //www.hse.gov.uk/mothers/index.htm
Yes. Employers must provide suitable rest facilities for workers who are pregnant. Where necessary the Health and Safety Executive recommends [//www.hse.gov.uk/mothers/faqs.htm#q14] that this should include somewhere for them to lie down.
Ask to see a copy of the health and safety assessment that has been carried out previously to see if there are any risks that have been identified for pregnant women in your job.
If you are treated badly or disadvantaged because of health and safety adjustments to your job, this is likely to be pregnancy discrimination. You should raise your concerns with your employer and ask for reassurance that this will not happen.
My job involves stacking shelves and carrying heavy boxes; I am worried this will affect my pregnancy. What is my employer legally required to do?
Once you have informed your employer, in writing, that you are pregnant your employer must protect you from any risk. It is recognised that heavy lifting is a risk to pregnant women, so you should not have to do it. The duties involving heavy lifting and stretching up to high shelves should be removed from you, and you should be given lighter duties. If these duties form most of your work, you should be given a suitable alternative job. If this is not possible you should be suspended on full pay.
My employer has said that I must take sick leave if I cannot do my job for health and safety reasons. Is that allowed?
No, you should not be on sick leave if you are unable to work because the job you do is a risk to your health and safety. Your employer must either change your duties to avoid the risks, offer you a suitable alternative job or suspend you on full pay.
If the risk is a recognised risk for pregnant women, your employer must take action to protect you from that risk. Your employer must either change your duties to avoid the risks, offer you a suitable alternative job or suspend you on full pay. It is advisable to ask your doctor or midwife to provide a letter about the risk to your pregnancy. Also, you may want to refer your employer to the Health and Safety Executive for advice. See: //www.hse.gov.uk/mothers/index.htm
Yes. If your employer does not comply with health and safety requirements, it is likely to be pregnancy discrimination. If you feel you cannot continue working and you decide to resign you could claim constructive dismissal. It is advisable to take legal advice before you resign because it is often difficult to prove in a tribunal that you have been constructively dismissed. You also need to be very clear that you do not feel you can continue working for your employer. See also Raising concerns.
I need to take frequent toilet breaks or extra breaks because I am feeling sick. Can I insist on these breaks?
Yes, you must be allowed breaks to go to the toilet. If it is difficult to take a break in your job, for example, because it would involve the production line stopping, you must be offered alternative work which is suitable [//www.hse.gov.uk/mothers/index.htm]. Refusal to allow breaks for health and safety reasons related to your pregnancy may be pregnancy discrimination.
Yes. If there is an actual risk to your health and safety then your employer has to alter your working conditions if it is reasonable to do so to avoid or reduce the risk. Ask your employer whether you can travel less. You could ask your employer whether you can travel less, or suggest meetings take place by video conferencing or by phone.
If there is no actual risk to your health and safety then you can still ask for a temporary adjustment to your working conditions but your employer is not legally required to agree to it.
My employer has told me that I should not do so much travelling while pregnant. I am feeling fine; what should I do?
It is not for your employer to tell you what is 'good' or 'bad' for you. If they have decided that you should not travel because you are pregnant, this could be pregnancy discrimination if you are disadvantaged as a result.
Discuss this with your employer to find out why this decision has been made and explain that you feel you are well enough to travel.
If you have to wear a uniform for work and it no longer fits because of your pregnancy your employer must provide alternative clothing, which is similar to your uniform or a larger uniform. If your employer does not have clothing suitable for pregnant women, they should give you an allowance to buy a uniform that fits or allow you to wear alternative clothes similar to your uniform.
You are entitled to take your normal holiday, whether the statutory minimum of 28 days (including bank holidays) or contractual holiday, during the period you are still at work. This includes any period when you are off with pregnancy related absence. It is advisable to discuss with your employer when you might take the holiday that builds up during your maternity leave, as it may be possible to take some of this before you go on leave.
Yes, you continue to be entitled to annual leave for the period you are on maternity leave. The minimum is 28 days in the year including bank holidays (pro-rated if you are part-time) but your employment contract may provide for longer. Work out how much annual leave you have left for the current year and how much you want to take before going on maternity leave.
No, you cannot take annual leave and maternity leave at the same time. If you are on annual leave when your baby is born your maternity leave will start on that day and your annual leave will finish. This may give you additional annual leave to take at the end of your maternity leave instead. See: https://www.gov.uk/maternity-pay-leave/overview
Refusal to allow you to take the annual leave you have built up during your maternity leave might be pregnancy or maternity discrimination.
Last updated: 08 Jul 2016