Is an employer obliged to carry out an individual risk assessment for all pregnant employees?

Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/3242) requires employers to make a general assessment of the risks to the health and safety of all employees while at work. Where this general assessment identifies women of childbearing age, the employer should also carry out a more thorough assessment under reg.16(1). In most cases, pregnancy goes undetected for the first four to six weeks. Therefore, employers must identify hazards and risks to all female employees of childbearing age.

The duty to carry out an individual risk assessment for a pregnant employee is triggered where:

  • the employee notifies the employer that she is pregnant;
  • the work could involve the risk of harm or danger to the expectant mother or her baby; and
  • the risk arises from any processes or working conditions or physical, chemical or biological agents.

Although the duty is triggered only in the circumstances above, it is good practice for employers to conduct an individual risk assessment for any pregnant employee once she provides notification of her pregnancy. This ensures that potential risks are avoided or minimised. If an employer fails to conduct an individual risk assessment, and there are identifiable risks where protective or preventative measures should have been taken, it could face a claim for pregnancy and maternity discrimination, for failing to safeguard health and safety.