Check health and safety risks
By law, you must have a general health and safety risk assessment for all employees. This includes considering specific risks for employees of a childbearing age, for example those who could become pregnant, are pregnant and new mothers.
Specific risks to employees of childbearing age could include:
- work-related stress
- lifting and carrying heavy objects
- sitting or standing for long periods of time
- exposure to toxic chemicals and radioactive materials
Carrying out individual risk assessments
You must carry out an individual risk assessment when an employee tells you in writing that:
- they're pregnant
- they've given birth within the last 6 months
- they're breastfeeding
You should review the risk assessment regularly.
Have regular health and safety discussions
Once you know an employee is pregnant, a new mother or breastfeeding, you should have regular health and safety discussions with them.
You should consider:
- possible risks that may occur at different stages of pregnancy
- medical advice the employee has received
- the type of work they do
Removing and reducing risks
You must temporarily change the employee's working conditions or hours, if both of the following apply:
- the risk assessment or subsequent discussions with the employee show that risks exist
- the risks cannot be reduced or removed
If it's not possible to change working conditions or hours
You must offer other suitable work to the employee. This work must be both:
- at the same rate of pay
- on terms that do not treat the employee any less favourably
Example of agreeing other suitable work
Jean has a factory packing job that involves lifting heavy crates of food.
Jean tells their boss they're pregnant. As heavy lifting may not be safe for Jean to do while pregnant, Jean's boss offers Jean a temporary alternative job until they go on maternity leave. This job was one found to be safe for pregnant employees when the business did its health and safety risk assessment.
This job does involve packing but not heavy lifting. Jean's pay will remain the same. But the job is at a location 30 minutes further away from Jean's home.
Jean lets their boss know that this would mean extra travel time and costs. As things stand, the terms of Jean's job are not as favourable so the organisation could be breaking the law.
After a discussion with HR, Jean's boss tells them that the organisation will pay for the extra travel. Jean's boss also agrees to treat the extra travel time as part of Jean's working time. This way Jean's working day will not be any longer.
As Jean's overall terms will now be as favourable as for Jean's usual job, they are likely to be within the law. Jean accepts this temporary job.
If the employee does not want to do other suitable work
If the employee does not want to do the other suitable work you've offered, it's a good idea to:
- explore with them why they do not want it
- work with them to find something else suitable
For example, if they object because of health or safety reasons, you could involve a health and safety representative (if there is one at your workplace) to help find them appropriate work.
When you might need to suspend the employee on full pay
If the risks cannot be removed or reduced, and you cannot offer suitable other work, you must suspend the employee from work on full pay.
The suspension must last until either:
- their maternity leave begins
- it's safe for them to start work again
You must also give the employee:
- the outcome of the risk assessment
- the reason why the risk could not be removed
If they're self-employed
If you hire someone who's pregnant and self-employed, you're still responsible for making sure they're healthy and safe at work.
It's best to discuss with them what risk assessment they need depending on the job they do.
If they're an agency worker
An agency worker's time off, pay and other rights depends on their employment status.
The worker's recruitment or employment agency is responsible for fulfilling these rights.
- keep any information you have about their pregnancy confidential – for example, if you find out about it before their agency does
- check that the job is still safe for them to do, and let them and the agency know if it's not