Legislation affecting mothers at work

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Legislation affecting new and expectant mothers at work.

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Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999 (MHSW)

MHSW provides the legal requirements on employers to protect their employees who are or in the future could be a new or expectant mother.

Employers are required to assess risks to all their employees and to do what is reasonably practicable to control those risks. They must include any hazards/risks to new and expectant mothers, when conducting this risk assessment. More information on how to do a risk assessment can be found in HSE's guidance Five Steps to Risk Assessment[1].

It is important that female employees inform their employers that they are pregnant, have given birth in the previous six months or are breastfeeding. The notification should be given in writing, as early as possible.

When employers receive written notification from an employee that she is pregnant[2], has given birth within the previous six months or is breastfeeding, they must conduct a specific risk assessment. The assessment must take into account any advice provided by the woman's GP or Midwife on her health.

If any risks are identified then employers must take action to remove, reduce or control the risk. If the risk cannot be removed employers must:

To get a better picture of how this should be done, see HSE's flowchart[3] [81kb] pdf logo which provides an outline of the procedure.

MHSW also states that where a new or expectant mother works nights and provides a medical certificate from her GP or Midwife which says that working nights will affect the health of the woman, then the employer must suspend her from work, on full pay, for as long as necessary. However, the Employment Rights Act 1996 provides that where appropriate, suitable alternative work should be offered, on the same terms and conditions, before any suspension from work.

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Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992

The Workplace Regulations require employers to provide suitable rest facilities for workers who are pregnant or breastfeeding. The facilities should be suitably located (e.g. near to toilets) and where necessary should provide appropriate facilities for the new or expectant mother to lie down.

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Employment Rights Act 1996 as amended by the Employment Relations Act 1999

The Employment Rights Act requires employers, when offering suitable alternative, to ensure that the work is:

More information on Employment Relations can be found on the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) website[4]

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Sex Discrimination Act 1975

Any breech of health and safety legislation in relation to new and expectant mothers is considered automatic sex discrimination.

There is no length of service qualification and the Act gives protective rights to a broad range of workers including the self-employed, agency workers, apprentices, and voluntary workers, depending on the nature of their contract.

REFERENCE :WEB.hse.gov.uk/mothers/law.htm

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