Taking Pregnant Workers health seriously
The TUC has claimed that employers are not considering their legal responsibilities under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999; when it comes to pregnant workers.
Pregnant workers have added protection from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
A survey by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that 41% of pregnant workers felt work risked their health; whilst law firm Slater & Gordon found that breastfeeding mothers were not being provided with suitable facilities.
The TUC and Maternity Action have provided guidance on some of the workplace risks pregnant workers, or those who have recently given birth may face:
Irregular or long working hours
Working night shifts can cause change in circadian rhythms, which regulate pregnancy hormones. There have also been links between shift work/long hours and miscarriage and premature births
Travelling and commuting
Working a long distance from medical assistance can cause problems in the event of difficulties or premature labour. Problems such as back pain can be exasperated through extended periods of travelling.
Stress can have damaging effects on the health of both mother and baby. Poor employer practices may have a detrimental effect of staff’s well being
Some solvents, resins, disinfectants and sterilising fluids can increase the chances of miscarriage, stillbirth, and birth defects.
You also need to ensure that you provide adequate facilities for returning mothers needing to express milk, as well as adjustments to pregnant women’s work stations to make them more comfortable.
It is best practice to undertake an expectant mother risk assessment as soon as your employee informs you they are pregnant. This should be reviewed throughout the pregnancy in relation to the risks identified. A further assessment should take place of the new mother’s needs once she returns to work.