H & S Guidance – Maternity

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The health and safety implications of new or expectant mothers can be adequately addressed by normal health and safety management procedures.  By assessing risks to all employees (including new and expectant mothers) and doing what is reasonably practicable to control those risks you will comply with both general and specific legal duties in this area.  Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 if you cannot avoid a risk by other means you will need to:-

  • make changes to working conditions or hours,
  • offer suitable alternative work,

or, if that is not possible

  • give the worker paid leave for as long as necessary to protect her health or safety or that of her child.


Those of most relevance in the local authority-enforced sector can include the following:-

NB The full table in booklet HS (G) 122 (‘New and Expectant Mothers at Work’ – See References/Further Details) contains a comprehensive listing.


List of agents/working conditions – PHYSICAL



Shocks, vibration, movement
  • During driving
  • excessive movements
  • heavy physical work
Avoid work likely to involve uncomfortable whole body vibration or shocks/jolts to abdomen
Manual handling
  • Pregnant workers are especially at risk due to hormonal changes to ligaments and postural changes to cope with increasing abdominal size
Reduce manual handling risks for all workers- address specific needs of the worker and/or provide handling aids
Extremes of cold or heat
  • Less tolerance of heat stress (although risks reduce after birth) – may faint more readily
Ensure comfortable thermal/environmental conditions

List of agents/working conditions



Movements, postures, travelling, fatigue (physical and mental)
  • Fatigue may result in miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight
  • Stress may lead to raised blood pressure
  • Dexterity, agility, co-ordination speed of movement, reach and balance may be impaired
  • Appropriate hours of work and volume /pacing of work (where possible with some employee control)
  • Availability of suitable seating. Enhanced rest breaks
  • Adjustments to workstations or work procedures
Biological agents/hazards
  • Hepatitis B, HIV etc.
  • Animal care e.g. possible toxoplasmosis, psittacosis, Listeria (e.g. in food workers
Depends on the risk assessment but may include physical containment, hygiene measures etc.




Substances that may cause:-

  • irreversible effects
  • cancer
  • heritable genetic damage
  • harm/possible harm to the unborn child/breastfed child
Actual risk can only be determined following a risk assessmentExcept lead and asbestos, such substances fall within the scope of COSHH
Some pesticides that may be absorbed through the skinHSE Guidance Note EH40 ‘Occupational Exposure Limits’ identifies such substances with ‘Sk’. Risk depends on the way it is being used as well as its dangerous properties
  • Precautions to prevent skin contact.
  • Compliance with relevant provisions of the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986.


Work with Display Screen Equipment (DSE)The HSE has stated that concerns about radiation emissions and possible effects on pregnant women are unfoundedNone required but to allay unnecessary stress and anxiety opportunity might be given to discuss concerns with someone adequately informed of current authoritative scientific concerns with someone adequately informed of current authoritative scientific information and advice.
Work with display screen equipment (DSE) Cont’dPostural EffectsThese can be dealt with by suitable workstation assessments, where necessary, and appropriate adjustments as required.


The following table sets out some features of pregnancy which you may wish to take into account in considering your arrangements for pregnant and breast-feeding workers, although you are not required by law to do so.



Morning SicknessEarly shift workExposure to nauseating/strong smells
BackachePosture/manual handling/standing
Varicose veinsStanding/sitting
HaemorrhoidsWorking in hot conditions
Frequency of visits to toiletsDifficulty in leaving job/site of work
Increasing sizeUse of protective clothing. Work in confined areas/workspaces. Manual handling
TirednessOvertime/Evening work
BalanceProblems of working on slippery, wet, etc. surfaces

NB Dexterity, agility, co-ordination, speed of movement and reach may be impaired as the pregnancy progresses.

Booklet HS(G)122 contains the full table. See below in references.


1. New and expectant mothers at Work – a guide for employers Booklet HS(G) 122(HSE)
ISBN 0-7176-0826-3 (£9.50)

2. Infection Risks to New and Expectant Mothers in the Workplace’ – A guide for employer
Booklet C100(HSE) ISBN 0-7176-1360-7 (£10.50)

3. A guide for new and expectant mothers. INDG 373 (HSE)