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Should individual risk assessments be enforced for new and expectant mothers?

Should individual risk assessments be enforced for new and expectant mothers? Baby and mother smiling.

Producing our new and expectant mothers course sparked an interesting debate in the iHasco HQ... Should individual risk assessments be enforced for new and expectant mothers? 

Here's what the HSE says: 

“Your workplace risk assessment should already consider any risks to female employees of childbearing age and, in particular, risks to new and expectant mothers (for example, from working conditions, or the use of physical, chemical or biological agents). Any risks identified must be included and managed as part of the general workplace risk assessment."

If you are notified that an employee is pregnant, breastfeeding or has given birth within the last six months, you should check your workplace risk assessment to see if any new risks have arisen. If risks are identified during the pregnancy, in the first six months after birth or while the employee is still breastfeeding, you must take appropriate, sensible action to reduce, remove or control them.”

While it is a legal obligation for employers to regularly review general workplace risks, there is no legal requirement to conduct separate risk assessments for new and expectant mothers, hence the report. On the topic of new and expectant mothers, a spokesperson for Equalities and Human Rights suggests that “such a requirement (separate risk assessment) would help employers to provide a safe working environment and would not be a great burden.” As there are different requirements for - and risks associated with - new and expectant mothers (even those who are breastfeeding), a separate assessment would raise awareness and reduce potential risks.

However, Nick Boles, formerly a minister of both BIS and The Department for Education, believes separate risk assessments would be a "retrograde step" as it would "imply that new and expectant mothers should not be included in the general assessment."

Would you include individual needs when undertaking your general risk assessment? Or would you prefer a separate risk assessment that focuses on the specific requirements of the individual?

As part of our New & Expectant Mothers in the workplace course, we created a simple risk assessment flow chart which should help employers better understand the steps to take during General Risk Assessments and After Notification (When you've been notified that an employee is pregnant). You can also download a PDF version below... 

Risk assessment flow chart for new and expectant mothers