While we have long since entered the 21st Century, some companies have yet to make the leap in fully accepting the place of pregnant women within the workforce. Despite legislation defending pregnancy and maternity rights (including their health and safety), discrimination against pregnant women not only remains but is becoming worse.
Currently the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) guidance states:
“While it is a legal obligation for employers to regularly review general workplace risks, there is actually no legal requirement to conduct a specific, separate risk assessment for new and expectant mothers” – HSE
This simplistic statement has led to criticism in terms of downplaying the need to support pregnant women in the workplace. In the Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination Report 2016-17, it highlights that thousands of women are being forced out of work due to fears that their employers are not addressing the health and safety risks that they face adequately. Within the report, it is noted that while the type of industry worked in plays a large role in reported number of discrimination complaints, it unfortunately demonstrates that the problem is spread across sectors at varying degrees.
According to the HSE, if a risk cannot be removed for whatever reason the employer must take the following actions:
Action 1 – Temporarily adjust her working conditions and/or hours of work; or if that is not possible
Action 2 – Offer her suitable alternative work (at the same rate of pay) if available, or if that is not feasible;
Action 3 – Suspend her from work on paid leave for as long as necessary, to protect her health and safety, and that of her child.
While the intention behind the current HSE regulation is clearly well intended, it is apparent why some employers may be led to believe that pregnant workers and the following maternity considerations are just not worth the hassle. In the modern workforce, where skills gaps are being predicted in many sectors, can we as a nation continue to accept the loss of educated and skilled workers purely because they choose to start a family? Health and Safety need not be an edict, if common sense and awareness of situations are taken into consideration.
If you are looking for advice and training in relation to the health and safety requirements for your business, why not get in touch with our expert team at SOA Safety?