Protecting the Safety of New and Expectant Mothers
Expectant and new mothers may have more associated risks when in the workplace and these need to be managed by the company. Certain adjustments to working practices may be necessary to keep them – and their children – safe and healthy.
The employer’s legal responsibility is to provide a safe working environment for all employees, including expectant or breastfeeding women. We will cover how to best support your expectant or breastfeeding employees, and some common risks that you need to safeguard against.
Risk Assessments For New And Pregnant Mothers
Employers need to implement an individual risk assessment for any employee who is pregnant or a new mother. The risk assessment must be directly updated following the different stages of pregnancy until they take maternity leave or have returned to work after birth – and there must be one to cover breastfeeding.
An employer should review their existing general risk management controls for pregnant workers and new mothers. They should also talk to the worker regularly to discuss any conditions or circumstances present within their pregnancy, and any concerns they may have. The risk assessment should be regularly reviewed as the pregnancy progresses, in case there are significant changes in a worker’s activity or the workplace as a whole.
Additionally, an employer should take into account any medical recommendations given by their doctors or midwives. You should also be aware that this applies to transgender men, non-binary people and those with variations in sex characteristics (such as someone who is intersex).
Optimum Safety offers training courses on health and safety risks if you’re looking to enhance your knowledge.
Common Risks To Pregnant And New Mothers
There are many risks a pregnant or new mother may face when at work. It is important to limit exposure to harmful activities or substances in order to reduce any risks.
Posture and position
You should make sure pregnant workers and new mothers are not:
- Sitting or standing for long periods
- Lifting or carrying heavy loads
- Using a workstation that causes posture issues
Mental and physical fatigue generally increase during pregnancy and following birth. Make sure your pregnant workers or new mothers aren’t:
- Long working hours
- Heavily fatigued
- Suffering from work-related stress
- At an inadequate temperature
- Facing too much noise
It’s also recommended that new mothers or pregnant workers don’t carry out any work related to:
- Working at height
- Anything with a high risk of physical injury
- Lone working
- Exposure to unsafe material (e.g. vibrations, harmful substances or slippery surfaces)
Providing Breaks For Pregnant And New Mothers
Pregnant and breastfeeding workers are entitled to more frequent rest breaks. The employer should talk to them so you can both agree on the timing and frequency of the breaks. Pregnant workers may also be entitled to paid maternity leave and paid time off for ante-natal appointments.
The employer must also provide a suitable area where they can rest. It should:
- Include somewhere to lie down, if necessary
- Be hygienic and private so they can express milk if they choose to (toilets are not a suitable place for this!)
- Include somewhere to safely store their milk
Identifying Risks And Next Steps
If you identify a risk that could cause harm to your worker or their child, you must firstly decide if you can eliminate or lessen the risk. If this is not possible, you must:
- Adjust the working conditions (or hours) to avoid the risk, or
- Give them suitable alternative work, or
- Provide paid leave