A new or expectant mother is a woman who is pregnant, has given birth within the last six months or is breast feeding.
Being pregnant or a new mother does not prevent you from working and developing your career. Many women work while they are pregnant and return to work while they are breastfeeding. In some workplaces, there are risks that may affect the health and safety of new and expectant mothers and that of their child and there are specific laws that require employers to protect the health and safety of new and expectant mothers.
Specific laws relating to new and expectant mothers at work are mainly contained in:
These regulations cover female employees of childbearing age and expectant or new mothers, including those who are breastfeeding.
You may be at risk from processes, working conditions or physical, biological and chemical agents and these risks will vary depending on your health, and at different stages of your pregnancy. Some of the more common risks might be (as defined by the HSE):
If you are pregnant, have given birth in the last six months or are breastfeeding, you are not required to inform your employer, but we strongly encourage you to do so. However, it is important for you and your child’s health and safety protection, and for maternity leave purposes, that you provide them with written notification as early as possible - please see here for more details. When personnel have had written notification from you, your manager should revisit their original risk assessment to identify if they need to do more to make sure you and your baby are not exposed to risk.
As part of your employer’s general duties, a risk assessment in regards to your working environment should have been carried out and the outcome of this should not only be available to you but also advised (either directly or through your safety representative which may be your department or Area/Divisional Safety Officer) about the preventative and protective measures implemented to reduce, remove or control risk.
When you have told your employer in writing that you are pregnant, they may want to revisit their original, general risk assessment. If the risk cannot be removed, your employer must:
Action 1: temporarily adjust your working conditions and/or hours of work – if that is not possible
Action 2: you should be offered suitable alternative work (at the same rate of pay) if available – if that is not feasible
Action 3: you should be suspended from work on paid leave for as long as necessary, to protect your health and safety, and that of your baby
Find more information on the general risk assessment algorithm produced by the Health and Safety Executive.
If flowing the risk assessment you or your manager still have concerns in regards to controlling the risks to your health - you and/or your manager can contact occupational health for further guidance. We may want to involve your Divisional Safety Officer and/or take advice and guidance form the central Safety Office as well.
Similarly, if you have a pregnancy related medical condition, we would always encourage you to speak to you manager in regards to this as this may affect the outcome of the risk assessment and help to resolve the concern. However, you can contact Occupational Health for further guidance.
Should the new parent wish to continue breastfeeding on return to work, the department should be informed in writing so that the Risk Assessment for Expectant and Nursing Individuals can be reviewed.
A suitable private space and opportunity to express breast milk while at work can then be planned. A secure, clean fridge in which to store the milk, work breaks at appropriate times or flexibility of start and/or finish times whilst breastfeeding will be considered. See the NHS guidance on breastfeeding and work for information.
Occupational Health Services
10 Parks Road
Oxford OX1 3PD
Monday - Thursday: 8.30am to 1pm and 2 to 5pm
Friday: 8.30am to 1pm and 2 to 4pm
Protection of health at work
Equality & Diversity Unit