Pregnancy is a natural part of the life cycle and many pregnant others will continue to work during their pregnancy and might return to their jobs when they are still breastfeeding their infants. If an employee is pregnant, it is important for the employer to be aware of the health and safety risks concerning pregnancy in the workplace and to make all reasonable adjustments to protect the health of the expectant mother.
There are a number of aspects to being pregnancy that can affect an employee’s health and safety at work. This is why it is important to conduct a workplace assessment that will help you to identify the risks and figure out where work will affect the health of the pregnant worker or the unborn baby.
The risk assessment should assess the working environment of the pregnant employee and the tasks that she carries out on a daily basis. The goal is to identify any possible risks that could harm a pregnant employee or could cause her pain or discomfort. When these risks are identified, the employer should take all reasonable measures to adapt the work expectations and environments in order to suit the needs of the pregnant employee.
Discrimination Against Pregnant Workers
There should be no reason why a pregnant worker cannot continue working at her job and developing her career, providing the working conditions are acceptable. It is unfair to discriminate or dismiss an employee because she is pregnant. If you fail to carry out a risk assessment and create safe working conditions for a pregnant employee, this might constitute sex discrimination. If you dismiss an employee because she has become pregnant, or refuse to hire a woman on the sole basis that she is of child-bearing age, this can get you in a lot of trouble and you could be accused of discrimination.
For most healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies, the type of work that they do does not pose any health risks for them and their babies. A women with a normal pregnancy is “fit to work” until the start of labour. However, the choice when to stop working should be hers, with advice from her doctor or health care provider. Many women choose to stop working anytime between two and six weeks before their delivery date, but the choice is different for each woman.
Women who are experiencing complications in their pregnancy, or other health problems during pregnancy, might need to stop working if their health care professional determines that they cannot work safely. In this case, the woman would be eligible for sick leave from the job. Of course, this is only for pregnancy complications and not for the normal symptoms of a healthy pregnancy.
The length of the maternity leave that a women takes is completely dependent on the individual agreement between the employee and the employer. During this time, the employer might hire a temporary replacement to fill the role, but the pregnant employee will have the right to her job when she returns.
Health and Safety Risks for Pregnant Women
What are some of the specific health and safety considerations that pregnant women should keep in mind within the workplace? Here are some of the risks that you should keep in mind:
- Pregnant women can be prone to varicose veins, which can be aggravated by standing for long periods of time. If your job requires standing for long periods, is there any way that it can be done while sitting in a chair instead? Standing for more than four hours at one time is an unsuitable activity for a pregnant worker.
- The effects of pregnancy hormones on ligaments and joints can make it much more likely for injury to occur when lifting heavy objects.
- Is the pregnant worker exposed to infectious diseases, at a higher level than she would be in a public environment?
- Pregnant women need to take frequent bathroom breaks due to the pressure that the baby places on their bladder. Is the pregnant worker able to take a break when she needs to and is there a bathroom facility nearby?
- If a woman is breastfeeding, she should be given breaks to express milk during the day. Also, there should be a fridge accessible to her on her shift, where she can store the milk.
- A breastfeeding woman should be provided with suitable private facilities where she can express milk. This is not a legal requirement, but it is encouraged. A toilet is not an ideal environment for this.
- Pregnant women are at risk if they work with chemicals, solvents, radiation or fumes. A pregnant worker might be advised to avoid contact with some of these workplace hazards.
- If the job entails stooping or bending over more than ten times per hour over the course of the day, this can be dangerous for pregnant women. Lifting assists should be used or the job should be altered to avoid the lifting and bending.
- Working for more than 40 hours per week can take its toll on the pregnant worker, as she needs more time to sleep and rest. Consider adjusting work schedules during the pregnancy.
- Pregnant workers should not lift any heavy items after the 30th week of the pregnancy, as there is a greater risk of injury.
Pregnant workers should not be exposed to second-hand cigarette smoke, as this can be very harmful to the unborn baby. Ensure that working areas are completely smoke-free.
These are just a few of the important health and safety considerations that employees and employers need to know when it comes to expectant mothers in the workplace. It is also important for employers and employees to be trained in the appropriate health and safety courses for their industry, as these courses will provide an understanding of the regulations and laws specific to the particular workplace.