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Health & Safety

pregnancy and matenity

What you need to know


Health & Safety - pregnancy and maternity

What are my health and safety obligations to women of child-bearing age?

All employers with workers of child-bearing age must conduct a health and safety assessment to evaluate 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 and you must take steps to remove or reduce any risks.

What are the common risk factors at work for pregnant women?

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.
  • Unhealthy workstations and posture.
  • Exposure to radioactive material.
  • Threat of violence in the workplace.
  • Long working hours.
  • Excessively noisy workplaces.

Must I do a specific risk assessment when I am told that a woman is pregnant?

No, not if there is already a risk assessment in place which has addressed 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.

What happens if a pregnant employee cannot do her job because there are risks to her health and safety?

Firstly you must consider:


  • Change her working conditions or hours of work where it is reasonable to do so to avoid the health and safety risk.
  • If this is not possible offer her a suitable alternative job where the terms are similar. The woman must not suffer a detriment.

What must I do if the job involves stacking shelves and/or carrying heavy boxes?

You must take steps to protect her from any risk. For example, it is recognized that heavy lifting is a risk to pregnant women so they should not be expected to do this.

What are the consequences of failing to comply with my legal obligations in relation to health and safety?

This is likely to be pregnancy discrimination. If the employee resigns, for example, because her health and safety is at risk because you have not taken  steps to protect her from the risks, this may be unfair constructive dismissal and/or  pregnancy discrimination. Further information can be sought from the Health and Safety Executive's website:

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