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HSE introduces risk assessments for pregnant workers

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has updated its guidance for employers of pregnant women or new mothers.

Under the new guidelines, employers should carry out an individual risk assessment for any worker who is pregnant, has given birth within the last six months, or is breastfeeding.

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Matt Jenkin, employment partner at law firm Moorcrofts, told HR magazine that employers should update their policies following the change.

He said: “The HSE gives some helpful guidance, which employers should review, on what the risk assessment should cover.

“This includes reviewing existing general risk management and controls for pregnant workers and new mothers and, importantly, talking to them to see if there are any conditions or circumstances with their pregnancy that could affect their work.”

Some of the risks the HSE highlighted included sitting or standing for long periods, lifting or carrying heavy loads, or using a workstation that causes posture issues

Other risks, like working long hours or alone, or being exposed to noise, vibrations, or toxic chemicals, were also warned against.

Samantha Dickinson, equality and diversity partner at legal firm Mayo Wynne Baxter, advised companies to get in line with the new guidance.

She added:"Failing to undertake an assessment, or to act on its findings, could amount to pregnancy or maternity discrimination."

Jenkin said that not making an individual risk assessment for a breastfeeding mother could similarly be considered sex discrimination.

Under the guidelines, employers should make their risk assessment as soon as a worker has written to inform them of their pregnancy.

Once the risk assessment is complete, employers should make necessary changes to support them, including adjusting the working conditions or hours to avoid the risk, or finding the employee suitable alternative work.

The guidance has similarly made it clear that companies should review the assessment regularly throughout the pregnancy and for a short while after birth.  The should also share the findings with the worker.

The new guidance in full can be read here.