Health and Safety Advice: How to Care for Pregnant Employees

Employers have a duty of care to their employees in terms of health and safety, but what many don’t realise, is that you need a completely separate policy for pregnant employees.

When you think about it, it makes sense. Not only do you need to protect the employee from potential risks in the workplace, but you also need to protect the baby’s health as well. Not only that, but there are additional risks to pregnant employees that wouldn’t be considered a risk to employees who are not pregnant, so you need to bear this in mind when ensuring their health and safety.

To help you care for your pregnant employees, we’ve put together this quick health and safety advice guide for you to follow.

A pregnant woman

Possible Risks to Pregnant Employees

As previously said, there are general employee risks that will apply to pregnant employees, but there are also additional risks that you need to be aware of.

These risks are taken from the Health and Safety Executive where you can find a lot of information on expectant mothers, their rights and the duty of care from employers.

Physical agents

  • Movements and postures
  • Manual handling
  • Shocks and vibrations
  • Noise
  • Radiation (ionising and non-ionising)
  • Compressed air and diving
  • Underground mining work

Biological agents

  • Infectious diseases

Chemical agents

  • Toxic chemicals
  • Mercury
  • Antimitotic (cytotoxic) drugs
  • Pesticides
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Lead

Working conditions

  • Facilities (including restrooms)
  • Mental and physical fatigue, working hours
  • Stress (including post-natal depression)
  • Passive smoking
  • Temperature
  • Working with visual display units (VDUs)
  • Working alone
  • Working at height
  • Travelling
  • Violence
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Nutrition

Read: Risk Assessments: Why You Need One and How to Do It

Dice spelling out risk

Advice for Caring for Pregnant Employees

When employing people of childbearing age, employers need to be carrying out specific risk assessments for new and expectant mothers to assess all the potential risks that could come from the working conditions. These health and safety rights should then be applied to all expectant mothers, employees who are pregnant, new mothers, employees who have given birth in the last six months who may or may not be breastfeeding, and women who have had a stillbirth after the 24th week of pregnancy.

When you have employees that fit into the criteria above, you should:

  1. Check if the risk assessment is up to date – if not, carry out a new one and identify any risks.
  2. Reduce or remove the risks – if there are risks to the employee, you need to inform them and do what is necessary to remove it or prevent their exposure to it. This action can be done in a number of ways:
  3. Temporarily alter working conditions or working hours – e.g extra breaks, sit down periods, avoid heavy lifting.
  4. Offer suitable alternative work – e.g less strenuous work that is in line with their original job.
  5. Suspend the employee on full pay – If steps one and two aren’t suitable, suspension with full pay is the best way to avoid any unnecessary risk.

By law, employers are required to protect the health and safety of their employees, so make sure that you have the necessary policies in place for your pregnant employees as well. It is unlawful to treat these employees unfavourably because they cannot do the same work for a certain period of time, so be flexible, prepared and considerate at all times.


Need More Help?

ActiveHSE provides many publications and resources on Health and Safety, including policy log books and checklists that can be tailored to your business. If you need any advice or guidance on which ones you need, don’t hesitate to get in touch. | 07921 278986


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