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How to deal with the health and safety rights of new and expectant mothers

Author: Andrea Oates


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  • Carry out a risk assessment in relation to new or expectant mothers if the workforce includes female employees of child-bearing age.
  • Tell employees and their representatives about any potential risks, and explain what action is being taken to ensure that new or expectant mothers are not exposed to those risks.
  • When an employee provides notification that she is pregnant or breastfeeding or has given birth in the last six months, carry out a specific risk assessment if she is carrying out work that could pose a risk to her health and safety, or that of her baby.
  • Ensure that the person assessing the risks to new and expectant mothers has received sufficient training, and that he or she has sufficient authority to act on the findings.
  • Take into account physical risks, biological and chemical agents and working conditions when assessing the risks to new and expectant mothers.
  • Be aware that in some industries employers have additional specific duties in relation to new and expectant mothers.
  • Alter the employee's working conditions or hours of work if any other action would not avoid a risk that has been identified.
  • Offer the employee any suitable alternative work, if it is not reasonable to change her working conditions or hours, or this would not avoid the risk.
  • When offering alternative work to a new or expectant mother, ensure that the work is both suitable and appropriate, and on terms and conditions not substantially less favourable than her normal terms and conditions.
  • Suspend the employee on full pay if there is no suitable alternative work available.
  • Where a new or expectant mother works nights and provides a medical certificate from her GP or midwife that says that she should not work at night, offer her suitable alternative day work, or suspend her from work on full pay.
  • Take into consideration that there are particular risks where women are breastfeeding.
  • Record the findings of risk assessments, any steps taken to avoid the risks, and any offer of suitable alternative work.
  • Keep risk assessments under review.