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Expectant Mothers in the Workplace

By: Susan Hunt MA - Updated: 18 Jun 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Maternity Leave Maternity Pay Paternity

Pregnancy is not an illness and many pregnant and breastfeeding women now work full time - but it’s important for employers to recognise that mums-to-be have additional rights (and needs).

If a business employs women of child-bearing age, it is vital that employers carry out a risk assessment for pregnant women because often a woman doesn’t find out that she is pregnant for six to eight weeks.

During that time, the health of the woman or her baby could be put at risk if she is exposed to hazards in the workplace.

If you are pregnant, a new mother (baby within past six months) or breast feeding, it’s important to inform your employer in writing as soon as possible as they will need to carry out a more detailed assessment.

The Management of Health and Safety Regulation 1999 makes it compulsory for an employer to protect employees who may be expecting a baby or are breast feeding.

What to do if an Employee is Pregnant

If an employer receives confirmation of pregnancy, birth or breast-feeding they must conduct a specific risk assessment for the employee involved and this must take into account any advice given by the employee’s midwife or GP.

If any risks are found in the workplace, the employer must remove, minimise or control this risk in one of three ways:

  • By temporarily adjusting working conditions or hours of work
  • By offering suitable, alternative work at the same rate of pay
  • If no suitable work is available, the employee must be suspended from work on full pay

Some work is totally unsuitable for mums-to-be (such as working in an underground mine, working with lead or working with certain chemicals).

But many other jobs could be unsuitable if they involve risks such as:

  • Excessive working hours
  • Standing for long periods of time
  • Working at height
  • Working at high or low temperatures
  • Excessive noise or vibration
  • Working alone for long periods of time
  • Unusually stressful work

A pregnant woman should discuss any potential risks with her GP or midwife since they can provide a medical certificate for her employer advising that she must not be exposed to a specific risk. For example, a midwife may feel that working long nights shifts is not advisable.

If the GP or midwife believes the woman’s job is unsuitable, she must be given time off with full pay for as long as necessary IF an employer cannot offer suitable alternative work.

Rights of Pregnant Workers

Pregnant women become tired more easily and need to use the toilet more often so they should be given more frequent rest breaks.

Employers must provide suitable rest facilities for pregnant or breast-feeding employees. (In addition, employers are encouraged to provide a clean and private place where nursing mothers can express and store milk. A toilet is not suitable for this.)

Rest facilities should be close to a toilet (where possible) and include somewhere the employee could lie down if necessary.

Pregnant women are entitled to ‘reasonable’ time off for antenatal appointments and/or classes. There is no set definition of reasonable, but it is likely to be covered if a midwife advises it.

This time off must be paid but after the initial appointment, employers can ask to see evidence of future appointments or classes (such as an appointment card or letter.)

Pregnant women should ask their health worker for information relating to work since there are time limits for informing employers of pregnancy and planned maternity leave.

If a woman is absent from work due to pregnancy related sickness within four weeks of the baby’s due date, this will trigger her maternity leave automatically (even if she had planned to work until closer to the birth.)

By law, pregnant women cannot work during the first two weeks after giving birth. (Factory workers must not work for four weeks.)

A woman’s entitlement to maternity leave and maternity pay varies according to the length of time she has worked for an employer and her usual earnings.

Partners may be entitled to paternity leave, but again there are time limits for informing employers of their intention to take leave.

All pregnant women are protected from any unfair treatment due to their pregnancy and if an employer fails to properly protect the health and safety of a pregnant woman, it is automatically regarded as sex discrimination.

Employers must address any possible risks such as awkward work spaces, handling or carrying heavy objects or exposing a pregnant woman to potentially violent customers or clients.

Since the risks can vary for every job, an individual risk assessment is vital.

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I currently work for a retirement home and I worked 24 hours straight and was expected to stay six more hours, Making that a total of 30 hour's strait, my shifts are 12 hour's normally as a care provider and I am currently 8 months pregnant. My question is are they leagaly capable of holding me there not just 24 hours but 30 hour's strait 8 months pregnant?
Cat - 18-Jun-17 @ 2:57 PM
Hello!4 months ago I loose my pregnacy(almost 3 months)After this a lot of fizical and psihical pain. After couple days I'm start bleading ,I was in hospital And they made for me an ultrasound that showing my baby growing nice this was the doctor's words...she told me this blood can be some old wound and probably healing and I must came after one week to another ultrasound and this was last time for me to see him...5 days ago I made 2 test and I'm pregnant again ,Happinessbut I'm scared as well...my problem is I'm working in a warehouse where is very cold and I have performance this means I must run and I must lift heavy things...my gp told me Is normal loose first 4. Pregnancy and about my work is not a problem I can lift heavy things till 24 weeks or more...my luck is I was in holiday but I'm start work again and I'm going first night because I'm on the night shift ,was terrible for me I was very tired I feel pain beli ,kidneys and back...2 days I sit in home somebody was nice with me and offer me 2 extra days holiday but tomorrow I must go again ...is impossible for me lift heavy probably will be like first tine...what should I do!?And I must mentioned that I'm not a resident,different nationality maybe because this rules for me will be different!Thank you
Lora - 7-May-17 @ 8:57 PM
Turnerheather31 - Your Question:
I am a professional dog groomer. I have been with this same job for 8 years. We recently lost one of our staff due to cancer so the entire work load is on me. If we get 35 dogs then I have to do 35 dogs by my self. I work only 5 days a week because we are closed. But in those 5 days im accumulating 50 plus ours. If we are super busy then I cant even stop and eat lunch. There are absolutely no breaks unless we want a repercussion. We get paid cash dailey and im supposed to get 40 percent of what the dog cost but if I take a break and sit down off the concrete then im looking at a pay cut for the day. She insist on having me pick up heavy dogs. And when I was 19 wks I tripped on cords laying on the ground and landed all my weight on my stomach. It took 2 people to help me up. She wouldnt even let me sit down to recuperate or to make sure the baby was ok. She said suck it up and get back to work we have dogs to do. I cant take off for doctors appts which has made me loose my doctor due to missed appts. So im 30 weeks with no doctor and the need for a scheduled c section. Im insure what to do. I cant quit because I dont have any other source of income with a family of 6. Is there a way to prove to her that how she has treated me is completely against the law with out getting her closed?

Our Response:
Much depends upon the terms and conditions of your employment contract. If you are PAYE, pregnant employees have four main legal rights: paid time off for antenatal care, maternity leave, maternity pay or maternity allowance and protection against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal. Please see link here.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 21-Apr-17 @ 10:07 AM
I am a professional dog groomer. I have been with this same job for 8 years. We recently lost one of our staff due to cancer so the entire work load is on me. If we get 35 dogs then i have to do 35 dogs by my self. I work only 5 days a week because we are closed. But in those 5 days im accumulating 50 plus ours. If we are super busy then i cant even stop and eat lunch. There are absolutely no breaks unless we want a repercussion. We get paid cash dailey and im supposed to get 40 percent of what the dog cost but if i take a break and sit down off the concrete then im looking at a pay cut for the day. She insist on having me pick up heavy dogs. And when i was 19 wks i tripped on cords laying on the ground and landed all my weight on my stomach. It took 2 people to help me up. She wouldnt even let me sit down to recuperate or to make sure the baby was ok. She said suck it up and get back to work we have dogs to do. I cant take off for doctors appts which has made me loose my doctor due to missed appts. So im 30 weeks with no doctor and the need for a scheduled c section. Im insure what to do. I cant quit because i dont have any other source of income with a family of 6. Is there a way to prove to her that how she has treated me is completely against the law with out getting her closed?
Turnerheather31 - 20-Apr-17 @ 11:38 AM
Hello just need some advise if I'm being treated right at work. I'm 20 weeks pregnant and work as a carer house to house calls constantly driving. I'm out early in mornings from 7am till 12.00 Sometimes 13.00. Then home for a bit the back out at 16.30 till 22.30. I'm absolutely shattered I get one day off a week sometimes none. I asked my boss if I can reduce hours even mornings or night as I can't do both no more she said bear with her as no staff and she cant do it yet. Some of my calls I don't think I should be on as pulling pushing finding it hard to bend but wen I talk to her she don't listen. I'm dizzy all time I got low iron. Just feel like I don't rest. I'm skipping meals rushing round just not enough time to do nothing. I don't know wat to do no more. Whether to pack job in or what. I'm not being listened to. It's a lot of pressure not getting enough rest or breaks. Am I being treated fair ?
Shellyjjoned - 3-Mar-17 @ 11:42 PM
Jar - Your Question:
I work alone in a shop on a busy high street for 5 hours a day, 4 days a week. Including every Friday night. I have not long found out I am pregnant, only 7 weeks gone.I bring in the large weekly delivery with only help from the driver and I'm expected to carry up to and sometimes over 25kg. I'm only 9 stone (at the moment) and already feel I am lifting too much. I have to do a lot of bending and stretching to restock shelves etc. I'm on my feet pretty much all shift. Although there is a small plastic stool I should never really be caught just having a sit down. I quite often experience aggressive behaviour not just while I am in the shop working but also after I lock up and am waiting for my bus home. Mainly trouble from gangs of teenagers or rowdy Friday night revelers. Occasionally I am left to bank the weekly takings myself. as in I actually have to walk down the high street to the bank from the shop, carrying up to £4000 at a time. My employer only has 4 employees including me, we all work alone.I plan on telling my employer tomorrow about my pregnancy, but after reading what I have today I am honestly worried that my boss will not be at all be happy to hear my good news, as I do not think he will be able to accommodate even half of the things it seems like he should for me.

Our Response:
The government guidelines regarding how your employer should act are outlined here. I hope this helps you understand your employer's obligations.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 20-Feb-17 @ 10:58 AM
I work alone in a shop on a busy high street for 5 hours a day, 4 days a week. Including every Friday night. I have not long found out I am pregnant, only 7 weeks gone. I bring in the large weekly delivery with only help from the driver and I'm expected to carry up to and sometimes over 25kg. I'm only 9 stone (at the moment) and already feel I am lifting too much. I have to do a lot of bending and stretching to restock shelves etc. I'm on my feet pretty much all shift. Although there is a small plastic stool I should never really be caught just having a sit down. I quite often experience aggressive behaviour not just while I am in the shop working but also after I lock up and am waiting for my bus home... Mainly trouble from gangs of teenagers or rowdy Friday night revelers. Occasionally I am left to bank the weekly takings myself... as in i actually have to walk down the high street to the bank from the shop, carrying up to £4000 at a time. My employer only has 4 employees including me, we all work alone. I plan on telling my employer tomorrow about my pregnancy, but after reading what I have today I am honestly worried that my boss will not be at all be happy to hear my good news, as I do not think he will be able to accommodate even half of the things it seems like he should for me.
Jar - 19-Feb-17 @ 10:43 AM
Hi. I'm working in a restaurant on flexible hours. I've asked to reduce my shift after maternity break 19 months ago and then again 9 months ago. They agreed to both requests despite them being less than12 months apart. Now I'm pregnant I've asked to change only the days I work (no change to the hours), General manager agreed but Iwas refused by operating manager as it's within12 months of my last request. I look after my daughter all day and work in the evening. Asked for weekend free of work so I could get some rest when husband is taking care of the little one. Is there anything I can do to make them change their mind? Thank you
Anna - 22-Jan-17 @ 10:39 PM
I work for a European wax center on weekends I work 11 hours shift and when I'm alone I get no scheduled break at all.I'm 5 months pregnant.
Rave - 8-Jan-17 @ 4:54 PM
Hi. I came back to work after 5 weeks on sick. I've been send to new department where is 1 degrees room temperature. Am I allowed to work in there or my employer should need to find me a job where I'm suitable to work. Many thanks
Emm - 6-Jan-17 @ 11:36 AM
Hi, I'm 29 weeks pregnant and working in food warehouse. Until today I was doing audit job;however my employer decided that from now I have to perform picking activities (manual handling). It will be picking up light packages of cigarettes, put them into a bag and pushing a cage along the isles on which those bags will be placed on. The reach truck will be driving around and other pickers will be picking there as well. If I don't feel able to do so ,I have an alternative to go on sick leave. They can also offer extra unpaid breaks if I need to sit down. I belie that this environment is too risky for me to work because of my circumstances. Do they have legal rights to ask me to take sick leave if I refuse picking? There are other alternative jobs they don't want to give me because I am working part time. Thanks.
itucis - 4-Jan-17 @ 1:28 PM
Jess - Your Question:
Hi I am 14weeks pregnant and work in a factory where it is loud and heavy lifting, I also work 8hrs aday 5days awk on 3shifts. My employer is now telling me I do not come off of shifts untill I am 21wks pregnant. I am getting very worried as could I be putting my baby and myself at risk?? Please could someone help me? Thanks. X

Our Response:
If you are concerned about any risks to your pregnancy, then as specified in your article, you may wish to visit your GP who will assess your situation. Please also see NHS link here.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 21-Dec-16 @ 10:34 AM
Hi i am 14weeks pregnant and work in a factory where it is loud and heavy lifting, i also work 8hrs aday 5days awk on 3shifts. My employer is now telling me i do not come off of shifts untill i am 21wks pregnant. I am getting very worried as could i be putting my baby and myself at risk?? Please could someone help me? Thanks. X
Jess - 20-Dec-16 @ 3:40 PM
I work 12 hour night shift in sleeving departament of a busy factory...tje alternatives are being moved on tehe lines where ia too noisy and too cold...am i entitled to more breaks...hoe many...can I be suspended. ..and what can I doto improve my situation. .i am scared for my baby...i dont think i will cope
opa - 17-Dec-16 @ 10:36 PM
Vness86 - Your Question:
I currently work as a bail agent. My usual shifts are from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. and then I'm on call until 8 a.m. My biggest issue at the moment is not getting proper lunch breaks. I often work by myself so if I'm extremely busy that night I can't just kick people out of the office so I'm left taking my lunch after I'm scheduled to. I'm not sure what to do. I have gestational diabetes so I'm supposed to stick to a strict schedule and regularly check my blood sugar's but this is becoming extremely hard to keep up with. What should I do?

Our Response:
You would have to speak to your employer directly if your contract specifies you should have a lunchbreak and you are not getting one. However, much depends on what it stipulates in your contract and whether your lunch break is supposed to be at set times. A a rule, you'll normally have the right to a 20 minute rest break for every six hours you work.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 25-Oct-16 @ 3:05 PM
I currently work as a bail agent. My usual shifts are from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. and then I'm on call until 8 a.m. . My biggest issue at the moment is not getting proper lunch breaks. I often work by myself so if I'm extremely busy that night I can't just kick people out of the office so I'm left taking my lunch after I'm scheduled to. I'm not sure what to do. I have gestational diabetes so I'm supposed to stick to a strict schedule and regularly check my blood sugar's but this is becoming extremely hard to keep up with. What should I do?
Vness86 - 24-Oct-16 @ 6:44 PM
I currently work 40hrs per week in a nursery, i have suffered really bad with HG.. causing me to be off sick about 5weeks.. i recently returned to work on phased return which my employer used my annual leave to make up the hours not worked. Is this right? I am now back on full time hours and struggling as i only have one half hr break per day and im often very sick however my employer is funny about letting me come home :( which is stressing me out.
Ltee - 7-Sep-16 @ 11:20 AM
Bethyboo - Your Question:
Hi im currently pregnant and work in a large shopping centre. The unit I work in has no toilet facilities and the centre provides shared staff facilities for the units without toilets. Recently however the centre have closed the staff toilets they say "due to missuse" so now I have no facilites to use other than some in a cinema a 10 minuite walk away ( no good when desperate and suffering from hyperemesis).Is there anything I can do about this as technicaly the centre arnt my employer?

Our Response:
You would need to speak to your employer directly about this and include how it is affecting you personally. I imagine other staff/outlets have been affected too, and much depends upon the agreement with your employer and shopping centre regarding the use of the facilities for units that have none.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 22-Aug-16 @ 10:45 AM
Hi im currently pregnant and work in a large shopping centre. The unit i work in has no toilet facilities and the centre provides shared staff facilities for the units without toilets. Recently however the centre have closed the staff toilets they say "due to missuse" so now i have no facilites to use other than some in a cinema a 10 minuite walk away ( no good when desperate and suffering from hyperemesis).Is there anything i can do about this as technicaly the centre arnt my employer?
Bethyboo - 21-Aug-16 @ 8:17 AM
Danielle - Your Question:
Hi, im new to my job and it can be quote stressful at times, I stand all day from between 7 hours to 10 hours with a single 30 minute break, I have not had any risk assessment being 4 months pregnant, am I entitled to get more than this as it is exhausting, emotional and stressful for myself.

Our Response:
Then you should speak to your line manager regarding this. You can see more via the HSE linkhere.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 19-Aug-16 @ 12:04 PM
Hi, im new to my job and it can be quote stressful at times, i stand all day from between 7 hours to 10 hours with a single 30 minute break, i have not had any risk assessment being 4 months pregnant, am i entitled to get more than this as it is exhausting, emotional and stressful for myself.
Danielle - 18-Aug-16 @ 3:58 PM
Lottie - Your Question:
Hello, I work as a restaurant manager and I am contracted to 50 hours a week, which I work every week as a minimum but there are some shifts where I finish work at 23:15 and have to be back there for 7am the following day. I am on my feet the entire shift and it's hard work. As understanding as my employers are, is the above correct? Thank you.

Our Response:
Your contract should tell you what hours you are required to work and your employer should keep in line with this. As a rule, you have the right to have at least 11 hours off between working days with this rising to 12 hours if you are under 18. You also have the right to a ‘weekly rest’ of 24 hours or 48 hours within a two week period. If you need any further advice on whether your employer is working within employer guidelines, you should give ACAS a call.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 22-Jul-16 @ 2:46 PM
Hello, I work as a restaurant manager and I am contracted to 50 hours a week, which I work every week as a minimum but there are some shifts where I finish work at 23:15 and have to be back there for 7am the following day. I am on my feet the entire shift and it's hard work. As understanding as my employers are, is the above correct? Thank you.
Lottie - 21-Jul-16 @ 4:09 PM
Sunny - Your Question:
Hi I currently work 11am until 7pm within education on a reception desk, with half an hour break where I am lone working between 5 and 7pm. The establishment provides an advice service to young males aged between 16 and 30. I am 11 weeks pregnant. Should I be required to lone work until 7pm. Thank you

Our Response:
As specified in the article, a pregnant woman should discuss any potential risks with her GP or midwife since they can provide a medical certificate for her employer advising that she must not be exposed to a specific risk. Therefore, if you think for any reason you are at risk, then you should discuss this both with your employer and with your GP.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 26-May-16 @ 12:05 PM
Hi I currently work 11am until 7pm within education on a reception desk, with half an hour break where I am lone working between 5 and 7pm. The establishment provides an advice service to young males aged between 16 and 30. I am 11 weeks pregnant. Should I be required to lone work until 7pm. Thank you
Sunny - 25-May-16 @ 6:16 PM
vrobinson - Your Question:
Hi, I'm currently three months pregnant & during my working week I stay out once or twice & drive 4 hours on average three or four days per week. Can I have some advice on how long I would be expected to do this? Thanks in advance

Our Response:
As specified in the article, if an employer receives confirmation of pregnancy, birth or breast-feeding they must conduct a specific risk assessment for the employee involved and this must take into account any advice given by the employee’s midwife or GP. You don't say whether your job poses any risks, as where there are risks, your employer should take reasonable steps to remove them, eg by offering your different work or changing your hours, please see gov.uk link here . However, many expectant mothers can work through their employment up until maternity leave without any, or a few minor changes to their jobs.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 24-May-16 @ 10:21 AM
Hi, I'm currently three months pregnant & during my working week I stay out once or twice & drive 4 hours on average three or four days per week. Can I have some advice on how long I would be expected to do this? Thanks in advance
vrobinson - 23-May-16 @ 8:28 AM
Nai - Your Question:
Hi, it's my first time experiencing pregnancy I'm currently 3 weeks pregnant and I work in a factory, I do shift work but because it's early does anyone know if it's still okay for me to be doing nights at 3 weeks?

Our Response:
Specific health and safety requirements relating to new and expectant mothers at work are mainly contained in Regulations 16 to 18 ofthe Management of Health and Safety at Work (MHSW) Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/3242). You can see more about working night shifts when pregnant via the HSE link here. If you have any concerns regarding your night shift patterns, then in the first instance you should speak with your GP.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 6-Apr-16 @ 11:31 AM
Hi, it's my first time experiencing pregnancy I'm currently 3 weeks pregnant and I work in a factory, I do shift work but because it's early does anyone know if it's still okay for me to be doing nights at 3 weeks?
Nai - 5-Apr-16 @ 12:04 PM
kirky- Your Question:
Hi am 27 weeks pregnant I work on a bar 12pm till 8pm alone am made to clean the bar with highly concentrated cleaning products, lift barrels open shutters reach high for the alcohol and deal with anti social costumers is this even legal my boss as not dun no risk assment?

Our Response:
In the first instance, you would need to talk to your employer directly about this. Also, as specified in the article, you could also discuss any potential risks with your GP or midwife since they can provide a medical certificate advising that you must not be exposed to specific risks.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 9-Sep-15 @ 2:42 PM
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