HSE Publishes New Guidance On Risk Assessments For Pregnant Workers & New Mothers
Over the past couple of years, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has been raising concerns with the HSE about health and safety provision and risks for pregnant workers and new mothers.
In 2020, TUC conducted a survey of over 3,000 pregnant workers and new mothers in the workplace to get a clearer picture of how well employers were meeting their specific health and safety needs.
According to the TUC’s report entitled, ‘Pregnant and Precarious’, around 30% of pregnant women who responded reported feeling “very or somewhat unsafe at work”, and two in five pregnant women said they had not received a health and safety risk assessment.
They also reported that where a risk assessment had been carried out, just under half of the respondents said that their employer had not followed this up with the necessary action to reduce the risks identified.
The TUC stated, “We believed that it had been established in case law that all pregnant workers, new mothers and mothers who are breastfeeding are legally entitled to an Individual Risk Assessment from their employer…. We took our legal advice to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)”.
Legal requirement to carry out an individual risk assessment and review it
Following this research, in August 2022, the HSE published new guidance, focusing on the health and safety obligations of employers towards members of staff who are pregnant or have recently given birth.
It makes clear that:
- it is a legal requirement that all employers must carry out a formal assessment of the risks to women of childbearing age as part of their general workplace risk assessment
- an individual risk assessment must be carried out for workers who have written to the employer to tell them they are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have given birth in the last six months.
- Employers are now required to carry out risk assessment reviews during pregnancy, and make changes as necessary.
In light of the new guidance, the HSE is advising employers to:
- Review their existing general risk management and controls procedures for expectant mothers and those who have recently given birth
- Discuss with staff who are pregnant to determine if there are conditions or circumstances that they should be aware of and how these might potentially impact their work
- Discuss with staff who are pregnant to determine how their work might affect their pregnancy
- If relevant, consult with the safety representative or trade union regarding these changes
- Determine how they can make changes if a doctor or midwife has made medical recommendations relating to a member of staff.