Pregnancy and new parent employees

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.

Informing your employer and pregnancy risk assessments

If you are pregnant, have given birth in the last six months or are breastfeeding, you are not required to inform your employer, but are strongly encouraged to do so. 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. For more information please see the Personnel website:

Before going on maternity leave

When you have told your employer in writing that you are pregnant, they may want to conduct a pregnancy risk assessment to cover the risks in your working environment. If  risks cannot be removed, your employer must:

  1. Temporarily adjust your working conditions and/or hours of work – if that is not possible:
  2. You should be offered suitable alternative work (at the same rate of pay) if available – if that is not feasible:
  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 produced by the Health and Safety Executive:

HSE pregnancy risk assessment guidance

Safety Office guidance for pregnancy risk assessments

If following 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.

Referrals to Occupational Health

Breastfeeding on return to work

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.

NHS breastfeeding guidance

Workplace risks, regulations and guidance

You may be at risk from processes, working conditions or physical, biological and chemical agents in the workplace, 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):


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.


Contact us

Occupational Health Services

10 Parks Road

Oxford OX1 3PD

 01865 (2)82676


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 Friday: 8.30am to 4pm


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