Pregnancy - new and expectant mothers
This page provides guidance on how to protect females of child-bearing age, pregnant women, new mothers and women who are breastfeeding from health and safety risks at work.
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UCL has a legal and moral duty to protect women of childbearing age from hazards and risks in the workplace. Some risks can affect the health and safety of new and expectant mothers and that of their child. Working conditions which are usually considered acceptable may not be suitable during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding.
The guidance detailed below will support departments and managers to ensure they are complying with their legal duties and doing everything reasonable to protect new and expectant mothers.
Existing workplace risk assessments should already consider the risks to female employees, students, third-parties and visitors of child-bearing age.
In line with UCL's Maternity Policy, once an employee notifies their line manager that they are pregnant, a specific risk assessment must be conducted. The risk assessment should identify any potential risks in the workplace to the employee and their unborn child. The risk assessment must also take into account any medical advice from the pregnant worker's GP or midwife, about the health of the pregnant worker.
The use of the riskNET risk assessment module is mandatory at UCL to record risk assessments.
> Login to riskNET (UCL login required)
There is no template for a new and expectant mothers risk assessment provided on riskNET, as there is a vast range of workspaces with an array of risk profiles at UCL. It is recommended to create a copy of the existing risk assessment for the pregnant workers place of work and adapt this accordingly.
The risk assessment for the new and expectant mother should be reviewed at each trimester.
The risk assessment should be marked confidential so that the information is not accessible to other riskNET users.
The hazards which may affect a new or expectant mother arise from working conditions and processes or physical, biological and chemical agents. The risks vary depending on the health of the individual and the stage of pregnancy.
Listed below are some common hazards to consider as part of the risk assessment:
- Working conditions and processes
- Provision of welfare facilities (including rest rooms)
- Mental and physical fatigue due to working hours
- Stress (including post-natal depression)
- Workstations and posture
- Thermal comfort
- Threat of violence in the workplace
- Emergency evacuation (refer to UCL Fire TN008)
- Passive smoking
- Working alone
- Working at height
- Physical agents
- Standing or sitting still for long periods of time
- Lifting/carrying heavy or awkward loads
- Excessively noisy workplaces
- Exposure to radioactive material
- Electric shock
- Exposure to vibration
- Chemical agents
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Biological agents
- Exposure to infectious diseases
Pregnant workers can safely work with display screen equipment (DSE). Scientific studies have not shown any link between miscarriages or birth defects and working with DSE.
All staff should have an existing DSE assessment and this can be reviewed by the pregnant worker during each trimester of the pregnancy to ensure they feel as comfortable as possible.
Additional breaks away from the DSE workstation is recommended for pregnant workers and the frequency and length of these breaks may increase as the pregnancy progresses.
Outside of the workplace, it is important to be mindful of the risks pregnant workers may face travelling to and from their place of work.
To ensure the safety of the pregnant worker, the below may be considered as required.
- Travel outside of peak travel times
- Avoid travel during periods of extreme weather
- Avoid travelling outside of daylight hours, this may make pregnant workers unsuitable for night working
UCL is committed to supporting parents who wish to breastfeed on their return to work and have identified suitable facilities to do so.
> Further information about quiet rooms in the workplace that can be used for breastfeeding and/or expressing milk.
If a significant health and safety risk is identified in the pregnant workers risk assessment, which goes beyond the normal level of risk found outside the workplace, you must take the following actions:
Temporarily adjust her working conditions or hours. If that is not possible, go to action 2.
Offer her suitable alternative work (at the same rate of pay) if available. If that is not possible, go to action 3.
Suspend her from work on paid leave for as long as necessary to protect her health and safety, and that of her child.
The pregnant workers risk assessment should be reviewed regularly as the pregnancy progresses. It is recommended that the risk assessment should be reviewed at each trimester.
It can be reviewed more regularly if there are significant changes to the workplace, the health of the worker or at the workers request.
Last updated: Thursday, September 21, 2023