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Occupational Health


Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSW), employers are required to take into account health and safety risks to New and Expectant Mothers in the workplace.

Risks will need to be managed to reduce the likelihood of harm in accordance with the University Parental leave policy and procedure 

New and expectant mothers

A ‘new or expectant mother’ is a woman who is pregnant, has given birth within the preceding six months or is breastfeeding.

Most women are able to continue to work during their pregnancy and many women return to work soon after giving birth.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require suitable and sufficient risk assessments to protect the health and safety of employees, including new and expectant mothers.  In some workplaces there are specific risks that may affect the health and safety of expectant mothers and their future child, or new mothers returning to work.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require employers to provide adequate welfare facilities for new or expectant mothers.

Risk assessment

It is good practice for department risk assessments to identify any risks that might affect women who become pregnant irrespective of whether any employees are known to be pregnant.  Female workers should then be informed of these risks.

Once an employee has informed their department in writing that they are pregnant, have given birth within the preceding six months, or are breastfeeding, a more specific risk assessment must be performed using the Risk Assessment for Expectant and Nursing Mothers.

It is best to inform your manager as soon as possible that you may be pregnant so that a specific risk assessment relating to work exposures can be performed.  As your pregnancy advances it may be necessary to review the risk assessment.  This could either be due to pregnancy related problems or where simple practical issues such as ergonomic and computer work need reviewing.

Risk identification

The risks that could be harmful to the health and safety of new or expectant mothers fall into four main categories: physical, biological, chemical and working environment/conditions.

New and expectant mothers at work provides detailed guidance.

If a risk cannot be removed, reduced or controlled then the following should be considered:

  • temporarily adjusting the individuals working conditions and/or hours of work;
  • offering the individual suitable alternative work (at the same rate of pay) if available;
  • suspending the individual from work on paid leave for as long as necessary, to protect her health and safety, and that of her unborn child.

Concerns about health and work

If an employee has any concerns about any aspect of their health and wellbeing, whilst preparing for or during pregnancy, then they should discuss this with their manager.  The Department Safety Officer (DSO) and/or Occupational Health (OH) can offer assistance to the individual and their manager.  Where required the OH will carry out a confidential health assessment and/or visit the work environment to advise and alleviate work-related risks or any concerns the employee may have.

If the employee is working with Category 3 microbiological agents, Classified Radiation or other high risk hazards an appointment will be arranged with a Consultant Occupational Physician to discuss any necessary restrictions.

Breastfeeding on return to work

Should the new mother wish to continue breastfeeding on return to work the department should be informed in writing so that the Risk Assessment for Expectant and Nursing Mothers 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 Breastfeeding and work for information.

Occupational Health can provide a suitable room, but cannot guarantee access every day of the week. For further information contact Occupational Health