• Negotiate a policy with the employer, whether as a stand alone maternity and family leave policy or as part of other policies. To see examples of what the policy should include please click here.
• Carry out a risk assessment to assess the specific risks to health and safety of employees who are pregnant, or may become pregnant, or are new mothers. This applies to any workplace where there are any women of child-bearing age and should also cover the risks to the unborn child and to babies during breastfeeding. Click here to see a sample risk assessment form for pregnant workers and new mothers.
• Inform all women employees of child-bearing age of the potential risks. This information is essential for women who are trying to get pregnant as the first eight weeks of pregnancy are usually the most vulnerable time for the foetus. The employer should also remind women workers that they must notify them as early as possible that they are pregnant, breastfeeding or have given birth in the last six months.
• Health and Safety Reps should also be informed. They have legal rights to be consulted on health and safety issues affecting the workers they represent. Preferably, safety reps should be involved in the risk assessments – though the legal duty to carry them out remains the employer’s. Safety reps should be aware, however, that there may be medical confidentiality issues - women workers may not wish to tell other workers about their pregnancy.
• Take action to ensure that workers who are pregnant or who are new mothers are not exposed to risks (from any work process, working conditions, or physical, biological or chemical agent) identified by the risk assessment, which would present a danger to their health and safety.
• Members will need to notify management - in writing - as early as possible that they are pregnant, have given birth in the last six months or are breastfeeding. Until your employer knows this they are not obliged to take any steps other than those taken in their overall risk assessment. This is so employers can take preventive action, as outlined in the risk assessment. A maternity certificate should be provided to the employer if they request it.
• The employer should then carry out a specific risk assessment for that worker based on the initial risk assessment and any medical advice the worker has received.
• If a risk cannot be removed then the employer should: - offer to change the worker’s hours or conditions of work to avoid the risk - offer her alternative work - if neither is possible, suspend her on full pay from work as long as is necessary to protect her health and safety, and that of her child, unless she is already on maternity leave Women should not suffer a reduction in pay due to a change in shifts or suspension.
• Keep the risk assessment specific to this worker under review, and take steps to eliminate risks at different stages of pregnancy. This is important because the risk of damage to the unborn child may rise at different stages of a pregnancy from any process, working condition or physical, biological or chemical agents. For example, a worker’s dexterity, agility, co-ordination, speed of movement and reach may be impaired because of their increased size as the pregnancy progresses.
Women’s Health and Safety at Work Toolkit
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