Health and safety

This section is concerned with the protection of the Health and Safety of women of childbearing age or who are pregnant or have given birth within the last six months or who are breastfeeding.  The Management of Health and Safety at Work regulations 1999 have specific relation to new or expectant mothers.

A healthy pregnant woman can generally do most of the jobs she did before she became pregnant.  Pregnancy, however, places extra strain on working women and steps should be taken to safeguard both the mother and the unborn child.  In the first 3 months of pregnancy some women experience morning sickness, this may affect their ability to work early in the day, if this is the case the member of staff should talk to her line manager about varying her hours, perhaps starting later and finishing later.  The last 3 months of pregnancy may bring shortness of breath or indigestion.  Tasks such as heavy lifting or long periods of standing should be avoided by pregnant women.

Risk assessment

The University is required to assess the risks to Health and Safety to which staff are exposed as a result of the work that staff undertake.  The risk assessment must consider the potential effects on mother and baby which is particularly important with regard to hazardous activities.  If risks are identified by the risk assessment, information about the risks should be given to all women of childbearing age in the work place as there may be staff who are pregnant who are not aware of it.  Where a risk is identified, the University will manage the risk in an informed, rational and structured manner to a level that is as low as is reasonably practicable.  The University must explain to staff what is being done to ensure that new and expectant mothers are not exposed to risks that could cause them harm.

All members of staff also have a responsibility to complete the risk assessment for pregnant workers form A and send them to the Occupational Health Nurse. On the first day back from maternity leave the member of staff must complete the risk assessment form B for workers returning from maternity leave form.

Avoiding risk

When a significant risk is identified the University will try to remove the hazard or prevent exposure to the risk.  The University will take steps to reduce or remove the effect of the risk such as providing aids that help with manual handling duties.  If, despite taking reasonable measures, there is still a risk that could affect the Health and Safety of a new or expectant mother or her baby, there is a set sequence of steps laid down to remove the member of staff from the risk. The University must follow the steps as soon as they have been informed in writing that the member of staff is pregnant, but even if they have not been formally informed but they are aware that an individual is pregnant or breastfeeding, via the grapevine, the University must take action. 

The following three steps must be taken to remove the member of staff from a risk:

  • temporarily adjust the member of staff’s working conditions and/or hours of work
  • if it is not reasonable or to do so would not avoid the risk, offer the member of staff suitable alternative work if it is available
  • if this is not feasible, there is no requirement to provide suitable alternative work where it does not exist. Therefore the member of staff can be suspended from work, on full pay, for as long as necessary to protect her safety and health, or that of her child.  The University would not usually expect to be in this position and the Director of HR must approve any suspensions made which should then be reviewed on a weekly basis.

Night Work

The University have very few staff performing night work.  If a member of staff, who is a new or expectant mother (one who has given notice in writing of being pregnant or has given birth within the last six months or is breastfeeding), works at night and has been given a medical certificate stating that night work could affect her Health and Safety, the University must either;

  • offer the member of staff a suitable alternative daytime role, or if that is not reasonable
  • suspend the member of staff from work, on full pay, for as long as necessary to protect her Health and Safety

Suitable alternative work

Alternative work must be suitable and appropriate for the member of staff to perform in the circumstances, on terms and conditions that are no less favourable than her normal terms and conditions and also have been risk assessed. A member of staff is able to make a complaint through the grievance procedure if there is suitable alternative work available which the University have failed to offer her before suspending her from work on maternity grounds. Please see the section entitlements during maternity suspension for members of staff who unreasonably refuse a suitable alternative work offer. Each case should be considered individually on the circumstances, and guidance can be sought from the Health and Safety Department and the Occupational Health Nurse.

Entitlements during maternity suspension

A member of staff on maternity suspension is entitled to be paid her salary at the normal rate for the full length of the suspension. The exception to this is where the member of staff has unreasonably refused an offer of suitable alternative work, in which case no remuneration is payable for the period during which the offer applies.

A member of staff on maternity suspension continues to be employed during this period which counts towards continuous employment, pension rights and other personal length of service payments such as pay increments. Contractual benefits other than remuneration should also continue during maternity suspension unless the University and the individual have agreed otherwise. Any suspensions must be approved by the Director of HR and the suspension should be reviewed on a weekly basis.

If the member of staff is on maternity suspension at the start of the 4th week before the expected week of childbirth, she will automatically go onto statutory maternity leave and will not be able to return to work until after the baby has been born.

Remuneration complaints during maternity suspension

Any unresolved complaints should be proceeded through the grievance procedure.

Dismissal on grounds relating to maternity suspension

It is unlawful for the University to dismiss a member of staff or select her for redundancy in preference to other comparable members of staff, solely or mainly due to Health and Safety regulations which could result in maternity suspension. Complaints in these circumstances should be proceeded through the Grievance Procedure.