New guidance on how to help protect the health and safety of new or expectant mothers at work has been launched.
The guidance, by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and supported by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and the Maternity Alliance, aims to answer some of the questions employees may have about continuing to work while pregnant and returning to work after the birth.
New and Expectant Mothers at Work - A Guide for Health Professionals, highlights the importance of health professionals’ role in helping to protect these women.
Employers have a legal responsibility to protect their female employees from hazards and risks in the workplace and to assess possible risks to new and expectant mothers. If risks are identified then the new or expectant mother is entitled to a change in working conditions, to be offered suitable alternative work, or, if that’s not possible, to be suspended from work on full pay for as long as necessary.
HSE’s head of health management unit, Colleen Bowen, said: “It is important that women employees inform their employers that they are pregnant or breastfeeding as early as possible. This is because employers are not required to take any specific action until they have received written notification.
Christine Gowdridge, director of the Maternity Alliance, added: "A better understanding of the health and safety laws protecting pregnant women and new mothers can help health professionals to protect the health and well-being of mothers and of course their babies. And it could lead to fewer women losing out financially at a time when they need it the most. That's why the HSE's new guidance is important in raising the awareness of health professionals and pregnant women on employers' responsibilities."