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Expectant Mothers in the Workplace

By: Susan Hunt MA - Updated: 21 Jan 2020 | 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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Hello I am 32 weeks pregnantmy boss is currently giveing me back shifts whitch I am finding to difficult due to being tired.I've tried talking to get but she says she won't change them and suggested she tells head office I'm not well is this discrimination.she says she has no other shifts for me
Jen - 21-Jan-20 @ 11:10 PM
Hi. i am pregnant in 16 weeks, at work they made me risk assessment, but the problem is that i work at minus 25 degrees. is this ok? I'm thinking about having no problems later. thanks
Madalina - 9-Dec-19 @ 1:06 PM
I work for coffee shop and atm we are having to open and close on our own is there any law to say this can not happen? As there is a lot of liftinginvolved as delivery’s come all time’s of day.
Gema - 17-Nov-19 @ 11:15 AM
Hello, i have 2 job part time, firt job 2 h and second 4 hour, i want asknormal i have break? In 4 hour work? I m pregnant in 20 weeks.I will take 116£ per week in maternity leave? Thank you
Georgiana - 24-Oct-19 @ 8:39 AM
Hi i work at Buc-ees i'm 27 weeks pregnant,the other day i was on my moment,they give me only 15 minutes to eat,so i was at the break area,putting my lunch bag back in my locker ready to return to my work area,when i heard one of my managers asking for me to another employee,i answer yes im here,im on my way back,then she started saying me:hurry you're taking 25 minutes of break,you needs to go back to your place of work right now,then I arguin with her that what she said was not right,i only take my 15 minutes of break!, i think it was harrassment,i should report her to the corporation?
???? - 22-Oct-19 @ 4:57 AM
I work at a grain elevator. I manage it. Right now it’s harvest season and I feel I need to be there for things to run right. We are open 24hrs to dry and process the grain. I not only work through EVERY single lunch break because this extra hour is vital for me to catch up my heavy workload. If I don’t do it I need to work from home in the evening after putting my two other children to bed. My husband is a trucker and had been working everyday with the odd day off. He leaves before kids are up and home after the kids are in bed. Yesterday we loaded a train and my assistant manger needed this day for thanksgiving. This train has no choice to be loaded within the 24hrs. It will cost the company $30,000 per day the train sits. I had to work 19hrs on my feet up and down stairs and ladders just to get through this train. We have another train coming in two days (although I should have the help of my assistant to cover the next shift). I had to take Tylenol today because my body is so sore from all the moving and running. I maybe got to sit and rest for an hourall together yesterday all for short periods at a time. There is no one to cover me. It’s up to me to manage and keep this place running. I don’t feel like I have much choice of anything. I am currently 32 weeks pregnant. They still have not found a replacement for me.
Brinks - 14-Oct-19 @ 4:26 PM
I am currently 29 weeks pregnant today and just had a meeting with my 2 managers and they are advising me to work just 1 shift a week as i work in my local social club behind the bar and they dont want me taking any risks but i've told them i feel fine to do the hours i already have but they have still reduced me to 1 shift starting this Saturday, i am on a low income as is it with only doing a minimum of 2 shifts per week on £8.21 an hour, my work place is a part time job only and we have very little staff due to the place being small and not very busy but i feel i can still do my original hours, but they want to decrease any risks that could happen to me, ive tried reasoning with my manager but she is sticking with me only having 1 shift a week i feel helpless and i dont know what to say to my partner as i dont want to feel like im gonna have to rely on his weekly income when he is still on a probationary period and is'nt due to be signed off till the 7th of novemebr
pregnantbarwoman - 8-Oct-19 @ 11:35 AM
My daughter is 6 months pregnant she works as a support worker she is still doing 12 hour shifts 8am till 8pm hardly no breaks she's not coping very long hours shes been attacked by a service user twice this week he put her in a head lock tried to suffocate her she is also ill with a nasty urine infection but her manager is saying she won't change her hours.. Any help would be appreciated
Lottie - 19-Sep-19 @ 2:41 PM
I have been working for this company for 4 month now am still on probation I sat down when it was not busy cause there was no customer and my manager told me I cant sit cause am only doing 5 hour if i ask less hour i should let hm know with I don't what is my right to this can I be fired cause am on probation and sat down for n little rest
Sha - 16-Sep-19 @ 3:38 PM
Hi. I have been working for the same company pretty much my entire pregnancy. I found out in February, a few days after I was hired. In that time, I have had managers look at me ridiculously when I tell them I cannot lift things, and I have had my hours cut back to three days a week. While, yes, I have had many complications this pregnancy as opposed to my first son, I am now only receiving the three nights a week, and that is not sufficient for me to live on, survive on, or put away money to move closer to work. I am struggling just to afford gas to ride back and forth to my job, and that's pretty much all the money I have outside of bills. I have to overdraw my account to get diapers and wipes for my son. I like my manager. She is a sweet woman. However, her only solutions were to either cut my hours to those three days, or move me to somewhere with lower pay. And I apparently would not be able to keep my current rate of 10 an hour, which is barely sufficient as it is. So, either way, I'm taking a cut. What are my rights with the company?
Dee - 30-Jul-19 @ 10:04 PM
Hello I work a Dunkin donuts. I have been here full time for three years I am now 12 weeks pregnant and i work 9 1/2 hours a day Monday threw Thurs and am only permitted a 30 min meal and was told I can not eat until I am on lunch. Am i allowed to request a 15 min break so I can at least eat twice in my 9 1/2 hours?
Becca - 16-Jul-19 @ 5:16 PM
Hi there. Istarted a new job 4 months ago just recently I find out I am nearly 7 weeks pregnant.I have informed my company.Part of my job role is to work in the warehouse on a bendi truck. Getting on and off the truck to check the correct items are in the rack. What is the law on operating FLT whilst pregnant. THANKYOU
C - 28-Jun-19 @ 1:29 PM
a colleague of mine is 26 weeks pregnant. She has a desk job in an office. we have all been recently told that we can only eat lunch during our dinner break, when before we could eat at any time. That's fine for me but I am concerned for my colleague. Can an employer restrict eating times for a pregnant lady?
essie - 7-Jun-19 @ 2:41 PM
Hi, I've been working for the same cleaning company for a little over 1 year which my job is cleaning schools. I'm currently 25 weeks pregnant. I made my employer aware of this when I was 6 weeks pregnant. And have only just been given my risk assessment to read myself and sign and give back. However whilst reading it I see it clearly states that I shouldn't be doing any hoovering,heavy lifting or cleaning of toilets. I was unaware of this and have been doing all three. (However have limited the heavy lifting in which I do) I dont feel happy signing this risk assessment. Is there any legal action I can take againstthem? Is there anything I can do?
JessA - 4-Jun-19 @ 12:37 PM
Hi. I’m an Assistant Store Manager at a Piercing Pagoda and I recently lost two employees so now I only have one. I am working over time currently, which is 48-50 hours. My DM is pretty mean and she doesn’t like me very much so it makes it harder to try and explain why standing on my feet all day is stressful to me and my baby. I am currently 2 months pregnant. I had a miscarriage the first pregnancy, so this pregnancy is high risk. I asked her for next Sunday off because I had to work a 12 hour shift Tuesday and I’m closing almost all the time. My employee complains about closing because she simply “doesn’t like closing” but is not pregnant and has nothing to do. My job requires that I stand all day everyday and if I sit, I’m terminated. Please, what should I do? I’m tired of feeling like no one cares about the well-being of me and my baby. I still have yet to let my OBGYN know so I can get a doctors note to give to my DM.
Kate - 18-May-19 @ 5:31 PM
Hi iv currently worked in the se buisness for 6 years now on its 3rd owner moat recent was 4 weeks ago! Iv always worked 2 set days at 16 hours ,im currently 15 weeks pregnant amd my boss has taking a ful day of me resucing me to 8 hours per week without any notice at all , what are my rights ? I feel like im being bullied out because either they dont wanna pay me or because im pregnant.
Missy t - 1-Jan-19 @ 10:11 PM
Hi, I am currently 31 weeks prenant and am struggling at work. I work as a nursing assistant on busy wards which involves a lot of lifting, rolling and manual handling patients and is 12.5 hour shifts 3-4 times a week. I have already had to attend maternity triage with back problems and cramping and have let my employer know this and requested shorter working days however they have just knocked a couple of hours off the odd shift here and there and I feel they didn't listen when I said it was the 12 hour shifts I am struggling with. This will be the 3rd time I have requested altered hours and so far have had no response. Is there anything else I can do?
Crinks - 29-Oct-18 @ 2:25 PM
I work part time in a cafe. I'm on my feet all day and you only get 1 break of half an hour if you work more than 6 hours. My boss has said that I've to try and make sure my midwife appointments are first thing in the morning as I don't usually start until 10 or 11. If I'm not able to get them in the morning there's no way I'm going to be given paid time off to go to them. I'm also pretty sure I don't have any rights at work as I'm not a PAYE. I've noticed on my payslip that it says payment method is credit transfer. Apparently in the past other pregnant or new mums have tried to take her to court cos of pay or leave issues but they always have to drop it because it drags on too long or is too expensive. I'm not holding my breath that I'm going to get all I'm entitled to. Any tips?
Loz - 25-Jan-18 @ 9:47 AM
I am a nail tech 22 weeks pregnant I am only allowed to have time off if my appointment are made at the beginning or end of the day or they make you take it as holiday. I arranged my appointment for 5.30 but I work 9-6.30 with a hour lunch and due to my appointment they cut my lunch break down saying a wasn't entitled to it is this correct? I feel like they are treating me really poorly they also often split my lunch giving me half an hour at 11 and half an hour at 4 which is hard work when back to back all day doing clients.
Rosie - 18-Aug-17 @ 7:47 PM
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
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
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
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