Safety for New and Expectant Mothers

There may be specific hazards and risks which need to be considered to provide a safe and healthy working environment for new and expectant mothers, especially those who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding.  This may include suitable rest breaks and facilities, and risk assessments.

Elsewhere on this website you can find:

Guidance for new and expectant mothers

For most women, working whilst pregnant carries a very low risk for both them and their unborn child. There are however some occasions when women work in more hazardous conditions or may be potentially exposed to hazards which they might otherwise not be concerned about such as radiation, lead and chemicals.  Physically demanding tasks such as lifting, twisting and carrying also need to be considered carefully.

It is therefore important that you inform your line manager of your pregnancy (in writing) as soon as possible so that a risk assessment can be carried out and any appropriate control measures put in place.

The risk assessment should identify any actions that need to be taken.  For more advice contact the Health, Safety and Environment section of Human Resources.

Guidance for managers of new and expectant mothers

Many women choose to continue to work while they are pregnant and many return to work following their maternity. Some new mothers may return to work while they are still breast-feeding. 

Managers are required to carry out risk assessments and evaluate the significant hazards associated with the workplace to new and/or expectant mothers.  The assessment should eliminate the risk or control it to an acceptable level.  If the risk cannot be avoided by other means, then a change will need to be made to the working conditions or hours, other suitable alternative work will need to be offered, or if that is not possible then the employee should be given paid leave for as long as is necessary to protect her health and safety and that of her child.

Following the completion of an initial risk assessment, a specific risk assessment should be undertaken each time you are informed of a pregnancy or each time an employee returns from maternity leave within six months of giving birth or when they are still breastfeeding.

Many pregnant women feel tired and need to rest.  Breastfeeding mothers need a clean, private place to express and store their milk.  Employers are legally required to provide suitable rest facilities for workers who are pregnant or breastfeeding.  Also, although not a legal requirement, employers are encouraged to provide a healthy and safe environment for nursing mothers to express and store milk.  This could be provided in the suitable rest facilities.  It is not suitable for toilets to be used for this purpose.

Legal framework

  • The University has a duty of care for the health, safety and welfare of all employees whilst at work under the Health and Safety at Work Act.  The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, specifically requires assessment of the risks to the health and safety of new or expectant mothers.
  • Other regulations such as the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations and the Manual Handling Operations Regulations also require specific assessments to be carried out.
  • The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations require suitable rest facilities to be provided for pregnant or nursing mothers.

This page was published on 3 May 2019