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Health & Safety during pregnancy

Pregnancy at work

What you need to know


Health & Safety during pregnancy

Are employers legally required to take steps to ensure the health and safety of me and my baby?

Yes. All employers who have workers of child-bearing age must conduct a health and safety assessment which assesses risks for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

What steps must my employer take to ensure the health and safety of my baby?

Once you have informed your employer in writing that you are pregnant your employer must protect from any workplace risk, for example, from lifting heavy objects or from stretching up to high shelves.

The Health & Safety Executive has produced a flow chart which sets out the steps your employer must take which include:
  • Carrying out a general risk assessment to assess the risks to the health and safety of all employees including women of child-bearing age and pregnant women.
  • Assessing any risks and reducing or removing them if possible.
  • informing you of the risks identified and the importance of informing the employer when you become pregnant.
  • Revisiting the general risk assessment to see if a risk has been identified and removing it if possible, after you have told your employer you are pregnant.
  • Adjusting working conditions to avoid a risk, if it is reasonable to do so.
  • Offering any suitable alternative work which is available (this must be on same pay as your normal role).
  • Suspending you on full pay, if there is no suitable alternative work.


Download the Health & Safety Executive's flow chart (pdf)

What are the common risk factors 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
  • workstations and posture
  • exposure to radioactive material
  • threat of violence in the workplace
  • long working hours
  • excessively noisy workplaces

What health and safety protection am I entitled to as an agency worker?

The person for whom you work must make an adjustment to your work if a health and safety risk is identified, and it is reasonable to do so. For further details see the NI Direct website

Does my employer need to do a specific risk assessment after I tell them I am pregnant?

No, your employer is not legally required to carry out a specific risk assessment, if there is already a risk assessment, which looked at the risks for pregnant women in your workplace. But, if there is a particular health and safety risk to you, for example, if you have a back problem which is made worse because of your pregnancy and you lift heavy objects, then your employer must take reasonable steps to remove that risk.

Is my employer legally required to provide a place where I can rest if I am pregnant?

Yes. Employers must provide suitable rest facilities for workers who are pregnant. Where necessary the Health and Safety Executive recommends that this should include somewhere for them to lie down.

How do I find out if my employer has done a risk assessment?

You should ask to see a copy of the health and safety assessment that has been carried out previously to see if there are any risks that have been identified for pregnant women in your job.

Can I be disadvantaged if my job is changed for health and safety reasons?

If you are treated badly or disadvantaged because of health and safety adjustments to your job, this is likely to be pregnancy discrimination.

Can my employer insist I take sick leave if I cannot do my job for health and safety reasons?

No, your employer cannot insist that you take sick leave if you are unable to work because the job you do is a risk to your health and safety. Your employer must either change your duties to avoid the risks, offer you a suitable alternative job or suspend you on full pay.

I disagree with my employer about whether there is a health and safety risk. What can I do?

If the risk is a recognised risk for pregnant women, your employer must take action to protect you from that risk. Your employer must either change your duties to avoid the risks, offer you a suitable alternative job or suspend you on full pay. It is advisable to ask your doctor or midwife to provide a letter about the risk to your pregnancy.

Also, you may want to refer your employer to the Health and Safety Executive for information and advice.

If my employer does not comply with health and safety requirements is this unlawful?

Yes, and if your employer does not comply with health and safety requirements in relation to your pregnancy, it is likely to be pregnancy discrimination. If you feel you cannot continue working and you decide to resign you could claim constructive dismissal. It is advisable to take legal advice before you resign because it is often difficult to prove in a tribunal that you have been constructively dismissed.

If I need to, can I take frequent toilet breaks or extra breaks because I am feeling sick?

Yes, you must be allowed breaks to go to the toilet. If it is difficult to take a break in your job, for example, because it would involve the production line stopping, you must be offered alternative work which is suitable.

Refusal to allow breaks for health and safety reasons related to your pregnancy may be pregnancy discrimination. Please see the Health and Safety Executive's website for further information.

I have a job with a lot of travelling which is very tiring. Can I ask to do less?

Yes. If there is an actual risk to your health and safety, then your employer must alter your working conditions if it is reasonable to do so to avoid or reduce the risk. You could ask your employer whether you can travel less or suggest meetings take place by video conferencing or by phone.

If there is no actual risk to your health and safety, then you can still ask for a temporary adjustment to your working conditions but your employer is not legally required to agree to it.

Can my employer insist that I should not do so much travelling while pregnant if I feel fine?

It is not for your employer to tell you what is “good” or “bad” for you. If they have decided that you should not travel because you are pregnant, this could be pregnancy discrimination if you are disadvantaged as a result.

Discuss this with your employer to find out why this decision has been made and explain that you feel you are well enough to travel.

I cannot fit into my uniform any more. Do I have to pay for a new one?

If you have to wear a uniform for work and it no longer fits because of your pregnancy your employer must provide alternative clothing, which is similar to your uniform or a larger uniform. If your employer does not have clothing suitable for pregnant women, they should give you an allowance to buy a uniform that fits or allow you to wear alternative clothes similar to your uniform.

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