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Health and Safety During Pregnancy and On Return To Work

What you need to know

If you’re pregnant, have given birth in the last six months or are breastfeeding, your employer must make sure that the kind of work you do and your working conditions will not put your health or your baby's health at risk.

All employers must carry out a workplace risk assessment, including identifying any risks to pregnant women or new mothers, and do all that is reasonable to remove or reduce any risks. 

If you want your employer to take action to protect your health and safety, you must notify your employer in writing that you are pregnant or have given birth in the last six months or are breastfeeding.

Your employer must consider the risks and take reasonable action to alter your working conditions or hours of work, such as providing somewhere to sit, extra breaks or ensuring that you do not do any heavy lifting. You may have the right to be offered a suitable alternative job or to be suspended on full pay for health and safety reasons if carrying out your role would put you at risk. 

For example if you’re pregnant you may need to ask for reasonable action to assist with moving heavy instruments, to be seated more appropriately in the pit, or for additional breaks in long working days. 

Breastfeeding on return to work

Your employer must protect your health and safety while you are breastfeeding by making reasonable changes to your working conditions or hours of work, such as allowing you to work shorter shifts, having extra breaks to express milk, or avoiding night work or overnight stays.

Flexible working requests

All employees have the right to ask for flexible work. If you want to change your hours, days or place of work, you must have been employed by your employer for at least 26 weeks by the time you make your request and not made a request for flexible work in the last twelve months.

Parents who are adopting a child have the same rights to ask for flexible work.

Any changes to your contract of employment are usually permanent, but you and your employer can agree to a temporary change in order to accommodate a period of breastfeeding. Ask your employer to confirm any changes in writing and to state how long they will last.

Pregnancy-related sickness

You are protected from unfair dismissal and discrimination if you are off sick during pregnancy. Any pregnancy-related sickness absence must be recorded separately from other sickness absence.

If your employer stops offering you work because of pregnancy-related sickness or sickness related to a long-term condition, you should seek advice as this may be pregnancy discrimination or disability discrimination.

Employers must not treat pregnant employees unfairly for taking time off for pregnancy-related sickness.

To talk about your health and safety during pregnancy and on return to work, contact your MU Regional Office.

The Equalities Toolkit has been developed in conjunction with Maternity Action.

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