Government Reforms (3):  Guidance on Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Health & Safety

The TUC and Maternity Action have warned that employers are not doing enough to protect pregnant women at work and have published new guidance for health and safety representatives on “Pregnancy, breastfeeding and health and safety”, available here.

In the new guidance, the TUC and Maternity Action explain that there are clear laws in place to protect new and expectant mothers, but states that many bosses don’t know what they should be doing or are ignoring their legal responsibilities.

The guidance emphasises the need for risk assessments whenever an employer employs women of childbearing age i.e. before a female employee notifies the employer that they are pregnant. This general assessment should then be revisited on notification of pregnancy to review specific risks regularly as the pregnancy progresses.

The guidance urges health & safety representatives to challenge employers who claim that there are risks that cannot be removed once they are told that a woman is pregnant.  The guidance claims that there are very few hazards which cannot be controlled to ensure that all pregnant women are safe, not just those who have notified their employer.

The guidance also suggests ways to keep pregnant staff safe including:

  • making workstations like desks and checkouts more comfortable;
  • changing workload or hours to reduce stress;
  • varying starting and finishing times to make commuting easier; and
  • agreeing an increase in breaks to visit the toilet and drink more fluids.

The guide also sets out what employers need to do when a new mother returns to work, and how managers can support their female staff with breastfeeding and expressing milk.