5.5 New And Expectant Mothers
The University is aware of the susceptibility of women and in particular new and expectant mothers to certain risks that may arise during their work. All reasonably practicable steps will be taken to safeguard the health and safety of expectant and new mothers and their unborn children, as described below.
A risk assessment for each new and expectant mother working at the University needs to be carried out as soon as the University has been notified. This is a legal requirement as specified in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. There is an individual and ongoing need to take account of the physiological changes during pregnancy.
A "new and expectant mother" is defined in law as a worker who is pregnant, who has given birth within the previous six months, or who is breastfeeding. "Given birth" is defined as having delivered a living child or, after 24 weeks of pregnancy, a stillborn child.
Notification Of Pregnancy - Employees Duty
Any female working at the University has the responsibility to notify the University in writing that she is an expectant mother. Only then does the University assess the added risks to the expectant mother. The individual's line manager and HR Department should be informed. Generic risk assessments should recognise women may be of childbearing age.
The employee should pass on any advice from her registered medical practitioner or midwife that could affect the assessment of her risk at work.
Newly appointed female staff must notify the University in writing if they have given birth within the previous six months or are breastfeeding. If an employee continues to breastfeed for more than six months, she must notify the University.
Immediately after notification by an employee that she is pregnant, a specific and individual risk assessment must be made, reviewed with the expectant employee and the appropriate identified actions applied. Risks may arise from physical, biological, chemical agents, working conditions and processes.
The risk assessment should be regularly revisited to ensure that any changes in the condition of the expectant/new mother are dealt with. The physiological changes must be taken into account when assessing the risks, including
- Morning sickness;
- Backache associated with prolonged periods of sitting or manual handling;
- Haemorrhoids and varicose veins associated with posture;
- Ready and easy access to toilets;
- Increasing tiredness as the pregnancy develops;
- Balance as size increases.
The purpose of completing risk assessments is to enable the employer to determine what measures need to be taken to eliminate and to control risk and, by acting on the findings, to demonstrate that the employer's duty of care is fulfilled. High risk work should not be carried out until suitable controls are introduced, the work should only proceed when any remaining risks are acceptable.
Specific Hazards And Risks
The following are the main specific hazards that are associated with new and expectant mothers at work that may need to be eliminated or else adequately controlled. The risk assessment should cover these and any others that may be identified (see the Hazard Register). The medical condition of each new/expectant mother needs to be considered on the basis of advice from her doctor or midwife. The generic risk assessment form HS/RA01 is suitable for recording the risk assessment of new/expectant mothers
- Slips, trips and falls - the increasing size of a pregnant woman may adversely affect her balance, so slippery or uneven stairs, floors, paths etc are a particular concern;
- Standing or sitting for long periods;
- Mechanical - vibrations/movement - including travel;
- Manual handling - lifting, twisting etc;
- Excessive noise;
- Exposure to radiation - non-ionising and ionising;
- Extremes of temperature;
- Infectious or contagious disease, e.g. German measles, listeriosis;
- Harmful substances - exposure to other people's tobacco smoke, lead, organic mercury chemicals;
- Display screen equipment - IT work stations;
- Working hours - duration per day, night working (suspension on medical certificate);
- Work-related Stress - working conditions, excessive workloads, travel during rush hour;
- Home working.
Preventive And Protective Action
If a risk remains after reasonable preventive and protective actions were taken, the University must take the following steps:
- Adjust the working conditions or hours if it is reasonable to do so and would avoid the risks or, if these conditions cannot be met;
- Identify and offer suitable alternative employment, and if this is not feasible;
- Suspend on full pay for as long as is necessary to protect the health and safety of the child.
Besides undertaking an individual risk assessment for an expectant/new mother, providing the information to the employee and acting on the findings as described above, the University is required to provide pregnant and nursing mothers with suitable rest facilities that must be free of tobacco smoke.
Many pregnant women will need to make increasingly regular visits to the toilet; so it is important that there is easy and ready access to such facilities.
The Human Resources Department is readily available to provide advice.