Employers need to act to protect new and expectant mothers

The HSE has responded to a recent survey highlighting that employers need to do more when employees notify them of their pregnancy.

Open communication is the key to identifying and controlling risks to the new/expectant mother and her child. The initial response when the employer is informed of the pregnancy and ongoing communication throughout the pregnancy will help to identify risks and put in control measures to minimise the risk to the employee and her unborn child.

The New and Expectant mothers section on the HSE website gives a new prominence to the decision-making flowchart which clearly shows that assessments should be regularly reviewed and that discussions should be had between employers and the new and expectant mother.

All risks to all employees, including women of child bearing age and new and expectant mothers should be identified as part of a general risk assessment.

Employees should be informed of the findings of the risk assessment and any risks should be controlled or removed where possible.

Employees must be informed of the importance of informing their employer of their pregnancy (or if they have given birth in the last six months).
Additional control measures should be put in place after the employer is made aware of the pregnancy/recent birth.

Common risks to look out for are:

Physical agents

  • Movements and postures
  • Manual handling
  • Shocks and vibrations
  • Noise
  • Radiation (ionising and non-ionising)
  • Compressed air and diving
  • Underground mining work

Biological agents

  • Infectious diseases

Chemical agents

  • Toxic chemicals
  • Mercury
  • Antimitotic (cytotoxic) drugs
  • Pesticides
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Lead

Working conditions

  • Facilities (including rest rooms)
  • Mental and physical fatigue, working hours
  • Stress (including post-natal depression)
  • Passive smoking
  • Temperature
  • Working with visual display units (VDUs)
  • Working alone
  • Working at height
  • Travelling
  • Violence
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Nutrition