Warning: Possible Baby Boom!
Fifty Shades of Grey sparked the biggest baby boom in 40 years, according to a recent news article.
There are a number of press stories linking the release of the 50 Shades of Grey books to a Baby Boom. This month saw the release of the film so perhaps we should be prepared for a similar increase in the number of new and expectant mothers in the workplace as we move through 2015.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work regulations require employers to assess the risks of workplace hazards and include the effects these may have on both the mother and the unborn or newly born child.
Many employers complete specific assessments for individual mothers. However, the Health and Safety Executive advice on this is that ‘there is actually no legal requirement to conduct a specific, separate risk assessment for new and expectant mothers. However, if you choose to do so, this may help you decide if any additional action needs to be taken.’
Your workplace risk assessment should already consider any risks to female employees of childbearing age and, in particular, risks to new and expectant mothers (for example, from working conditions, or the use of physical, chemical or biological agents). Any risks identified must be included and managed as part of the general workplace risk assessment.
When you are notified that an employee is pregnant, breastfeeding or has given birth within the last six months, you are advised to check your workplace risk assessment to determine if any new risks have arisen. If risks are identified during the pregnancy, in the first six months after birth or while the employee is still breastfeeding, you must take appropriate, sensible action to reduce, remove or control them.
Our HR Services can provide you with templates and guidance to assist with this process.
However, some of the key workplace hazards to consider include:
- Physical agents such as:
- Movements and postures
- Manual handling
- Shocks and vibrations
- Radiation (ionising and non-ionising)
- Biological agents – infectious diseases
- Chemical agents – solvents lead etc
- Working conditions such as:
- Facilities (including rest rooms)
- Mental and physical fatigue, working hours
- Stress (including post-natal depression)
- Working with visual display units (VDUs)
- Working alone
- Working at height
- Personal protective equipment
New and Expectant Mothers may require additional rest breaks and these need to be discussed and agreed between the employer and the worker.
If after looking at your control measures it is agreed that risk cannot be removed employers must take the following actions:
- Temporarily adjust working conditions and/or hours of work; or if that is not possible
- Offer suitable alternative work (at the same rate of pay) if available, or if that is not feasible;
- Suspend the employee from work on paid leave for as long as necessary, to protect her health and safety, and that of her child.
Employers are also required by law to ensure New and Expectant Mothers have access to certain welfare facilities. The Workplace Regulations require that you provide suitable rest facilities for workers who are pregnant or breastfeeding. These should be suitably located (e.g. near to toilets) and, where necessary, should provide appropriate facilities for the new or expectant mother to lie down.
Our HR Services clients can seek guidance on both the Health and Safety aspects and Employment Law issues around New and Expectant mothers by accessing our guidance notes or contacting us.
By Phil Barker