In addition to your general duties to the health and safety of your workers, you have an additional legal duty to protect the health and safety of all women of child bearing age and pregnant mothers at work. This includes workers who could be pregnant as well as those who you know are pregnant.
You should carry out a specific health and safety risk assessment taking both preventive and protective measures for female workers in this group.
You should take all reasonable and practical steps to:
In particular, you should undertake a risk assessment if there is a possibility of exposure to any of the following risks:
You have a specific duty to prevent a new or expectant mother from being exposed to a risk provided that she has given you written notification that she is pregnant, has given birth within the last six months or is breastfeeding.
You may consider encouraging workers, e.g. via your maternity policy or employee handbook, to notify you as soon as possible if they become pregnant. This is so you can identify if any further action is needed.
You are required by law to provide somewhere for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to rest.
It is also good practice to provide a private room for nursing mothers to express and store breast milk. Toilet facilities are not suitable for this purpose.
You are entitled to ask a pregnant worker to provide, within a reasonable time, a written certificate from a registered medical practitioner or a registered midwife showing that she is pregnant.
Note that you do not have an obligation to protect a worker or her child until she gives you the written notification that she is pregnant, has given birth within the last six months or is breastfeeding. This will include:
Although you do not have any legal obligation to protect a worker and her unborn child until she has notified you of her pregnancy, it is good practice to do a risk assessment for her if you become aware that she is pregnant (and she has not yet formally notified you).
Once a worker notifies you she is pregnant, you should review the risk assessment for her specific work and identify any changes that are necessary to protect her health and that of her unborn baby. Involve the worker in the process and review the assessment as her pregnancy progresses to see if any further adjustments are needed.
Things that might be hazardous to pregnant workers in particular include:
If this cannot be done, you can offer her a suitable alternative job, if available.
If a suitable alternative position is not available or if it is refused by the worker then so long as the risk is not remote and it remains necessary to protect the worker's (or her child's) health or safety, you should suspend the worker on full pay for as long as the risk to her and/or her unborn child remains. This should not be done lightly and you must ensure that all possible adjustments to minimise the risks have been considered and are found to be unreasonable or unsuitable in the circumstances.
A worker is not entitled to receive her pay whilst on suspension if she has unreasonably refused a suitable alternative job.
All pregnant employees have the right to paid time off to attend antenatal care appointments. Antenatal care covers not only medical examinations, but also, for example, relaxation classes and parent craft classes.
However, the right to time off only applies if the appointment is advised by a midwife, health visitor or registered medical practitioner.
You are entitled to ask for evidence of antenatal appointments - except in the case of the very first appointment.
You can request that the employee shows you:
A pregnant employee could bring an unlawful discrimination and/or unfair dismissal claim to a tribunal if you:
A dismissal (or selection for redundancy) is automatically unfair if you dismiss, or select an employee solely or mainly:
You must not treat a worker less favourably because she is pregnant as it may result in a claim of sex discrimination. Such treatment includes dismissal.
It amounts to unlawful sex discrimination if you:
As pregnancy-related dismissals are discriminatory, it is likely that a pregnant employee would not only claim unfair dismissal but also unlawful sex discrimination. It is important to note that while there is a limit on the amount of compensation a tribunal can award for unfair dismissal, there is no cap in unlawful discrimination cases, which means any case brought before employment tribunal can be very costly to your business.