Following pressure from the TUC, new guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) now requires employers to carry out individual risk assessments for pregnant women.
Although the HSE’s guidance had made clear that employers have a legal responsibility to consider risks to pregnant women, new mothers and women of childbearing age in their general workplace risk assessments, the new guidance has clarified that once an employer has been informed that a worker is pregnant, is breastfeeding, or has given birth within the last six months, then they must carry out an individual assessment.
When carrying it out, the employer is required to:
- Review their existing general risk management and controls for pregnant workers and new mothers;
- Talk to the worker to see if there are any conditions or circumstances with their pregnancy that could affect their work;
- Discuss any concerns they have about how their work could affect their pregnancy;
- Consult with their safety representative or trade union if they have one;
- Take account of any medical recommendations provided by their doctor or midwife.
The employer must also review the worker’s individual risk assessment and make any necessary adjustments as the pregnancy progresses and/or if there are any significant changes to the worker’s activity or workplace.
If the employer identifies a risk following the assessment, the first thing they have to do is consider whether they can control or remove it. If that proves impossible, then they must adjust the individual’s working conditions or hours. If that is also not possible, then they have to offer suitable alternative work. The Employment Rights Act 1996 states that this should be offered before the person is suspended. It must be appropriate for the pregnant worker or new mother, and on the same terms and conditions, including pay.
If that step, in turn, proves to be impossible to implement, then the employer must suspend the worker on paid leave for as long as necessary to protect their health and that of their child in line with the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
To read about the work of the TUC in changing the rules, click here.
To read the new guidance from the HSE in detail, click here.