There are both physical and emotional risks which could affect new and expectant mothers in the workplace. The broad range of risks which could affect the health and safety of new and expectant mothers must be taken into consideration in a risk assessment. Once an employee informs their employer of their pregnancy, the employer must conduct a risk assessment to analyse whether it is appropriate for an employee to continue working. Therefore, it is important to know what potential risks there are to pregnant employees in the workplace.
Risk assessment for new and expectant mothers
Employers have a legal duty to protect the physical and emotional safety of pregnant employees at work. Once an employee informs their employer that they are pregnant, the employer must conduct a specific risk assessment for them.
Any identified risks should be removed, or the employee's job role must be changed to eliminate any risks. If it is not possible to remove any risks, then the employee must be suspended on their full pay to protect their health.
In your risk assessment you must consider both physical and emotional risks to the employee, such as the following:
Manual Handling: Twisting, stretching and lifting at work can be dangerous to new and expectant mothers. The strain that these movements place on the body could harm a pregnant employee's body.
Standing for Long Periods: Standing for long periods of time without a sufficient rest break can cause dizziness and fatigue.
Sitting for Long Periods: Sitting for long periods can increase the risk of thrombosis, which can be dangerous.
Working for Long Hours: Working for long hours can result in fatigue, which is dangerous for the expectant mother and the child.
Working at Height: There is a higher risk of high blood pressure and fainting when you are pregnant, so working at height would be a serious risk.
Hazardous Substances: Working with hazardous substances can expose an unborn child to harm. Industrial chemicals, pharmaceutical products and infectious agents are all harmful. For example, funeral workers, hairdressers and cleaners all use chemicals which can be harmful.
Radiation: If you work around radiation, this could be harmful to an unborn child.
High Stress: The stress hormone can negatively affect the expectant mother's health and the unborn child's health.
Working in Extreme Weather Conditions: It is not safe for pregnant women to work in extreme heat or extremely cold conditions. They should be working at room temperature.
Discrimination: After announcing your pregnancy, if you notice that your manager is treating you differently or trying to replace you with another employee for no valid reason other than your pregnancy, this is a form of maternity discrimination.
Unfair Treatment: If your employer doesn't provide you with suitable facilities whilst you are pregnant, such as access to a rest room to lie down if you become tired, then it can be considered that the employer is treating you unfairly.
If these potential risks are not protected against then there could be serious repercussions to the health and safety of new and expectant mothers in the workplace. Moreover, the UK Health and Safety Executive will have the right to investigate any employers who have exposed their pregnant employees to risks.