Employers obligations during pregnancy | Health and Safety

All employers with workers of child-bearing age must conduct a health and safety assessment to assess workplace risks for pregnant and breastfeeding women. This must cover employees and other workers. You must give any person working for you information about any risks to them. You must to take steps to remove or reduce any risks.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website sets out all your legal obligations and provides answers to frequently asked questions. //www.hse.gov.uk/mothers/faqs.htm

There is also practical guidance on the HSE website about how to complete a risk assessment and record health and safety arrangements. See: //www.hse.gov.uk/risk/resources.htm

There is a flow chart which sets out the steps you must take: //www.hse.gov.uk/mothers/docs/pregnant-workers-flow-chart.pdf which includes you:

Carrying out a general risk assessment to assess the risks to the health and safety of your employees, including women of child-bearing age and pregnant women.
Assessing any risks; reducing or removing them if possible.
Informing your employees of the risks identified and the importance of informing you if they are pregnant.
Revisiting your general risk assessment to see if a risk has been identified and remove it, if possible, when notified that an employee is pregnant.
Adjusting her working conditions to remove the risk, if it is reasonable to do so.
If the risk cannot be removed by adjusting working conditions, providing her with any suitable alternative work which is available (this must be on the same pay as her normal role).
If there is no suitable alternative work, suspending her on full pay. 

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, and
  • excessively noisy workplaces.

No, not if there is already a risk assessment of the risks for pregnant women. But, if there is a risk to a particular employee, you must check your risk assessment to see if there is anything else you need to do to make sure the employee and her baby are not exposed to risk.  

Yes. Employers must provide suitable rest facilities for workers who are pregnant or breastfeeding. These should be suitably located and where necessary they should provide appropriate facilities for the pregnant woman to lie down if she needs to. 

Once a pregnant woman has given you written confirmation that she is pregnant, you must:

  • Change her working conditions or hours of work where it is reasonable to do so to avoid the health and safety risk and if this is not possible because, for example, the job involves a lot of lifting.
  • Offer  her a suitable alternative job where the terms are similar and not substantially less good.
  • Where there is no other suitable work, suspend her on full pay.

Once a pregnant woman has informed you, in writing, that she is pregnant you must take steps to protect her from any risk. It is recognised that heavy lifting is a risk to pregnant women so they should not be expected to do this.

No, you must not insist that she take sick leave if she is not able to work because the work she does is a risk to her health and safety. You must change the work, offer her a different suitable job or suspend her on full pay. 

If the risk is a recognised risk for pregnant or breastfeeding women you must take action to protect the pregnant woman. It would be good practice to take advice from the HSE if in doubt about what constitutes a risk. 

This is likely to be pregnancy discrimination. The employer could resign if, for example, her health and safety was at risk because you have not taken steps to protect her from the risks.  If she did resign this may be unfair constructive dismissal and/or pregnancy discrimination.

Last updated: 08 Jul 2016