Risk Assessment for Pregnant Employees and Breastfeeding Mothers

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Risk Assessment for Pregnant Employees and Breastfeeding Mothers

What is risk assessment?

Every employee working in an organisation has the right to be protected from any potential harm. A risk assessment is an essential part of an organisation where a careful examination is conducted to check for potential hazards caused by a work activity. This can help the employers in taking appropriate safety measures and corrective action to prevent harm.

Any important findings from the assessment must be noted down, if you employ more than 4 employees, as it will be helpful to manage the risks involved in the workplace and communicate the same to employees.

Is it legally required to have a risk assessment for pregnant employees?

It is mandate that the risk assessment of your workplace includes assessment of risks to female employees who are pregnant, new mothers or simply of child bearing age. These identified risks should carefully be managed and communicated to the employees. These risks may include physical, chemical and biological agents that can be harmful to the human body.

Once an employer is notified that an employee is pregnant, or they already have employees who are breastfeeding or new mothers, it is important to conduct a workplace risk assessment and take actions to reduce or remove such risks.

Whilst a general workplace review on a regular basis is a legal obligation of an employer, a specific or special risk assessment for pregnant and new mothers is not a legal requirement. However, it is a social responsibility to do so, and also helps you decide whether you need to take any additional actions.

Should employers carry out a risk assessment only for pregnant employees?

No, the risk assessment is required to be conducted for all employees to assess and prepare for risks to an employee’s health and safety during their job. As a part of this process, a special consideration must be given to female employees to check for risks that may arise due to certain working conditions or chemical or biological agents.

What if a risk is identified?

If a potential health and safety risk is identified for the pregnant or new mother, that may go beyond the general level of risk outside the workplace, you should take the following actions:

  • Adjust the woman’s working conditions or working hours on a temporary basis
  • Offer a suitable alternative work if possible without compromising the pay and benefits
  • Suspend the employee from work on paid leave for as much time as is required, to protect the health and safety of mother and child.

The right to employment act, 1996 states that, as and when appropriate, a suitable alternative job should be provided before deciding to suspend the employee from work.

It is the legal duty of an employer to check and update the general risk assessment for an employee if they are not sure of the validity of the previous one, or if there have been any significant changes made that may relate to it.

Having said that, such risks should be assessed for on a regular basis at different stages of the pregnancy. This is an extremely important step, as the risk of damage to an unborn child may change with different stages of pregnancy. For example, a pregnant employees co-ordination, dexterity and reach may become impaired, due to an increased size of the baby in the second or third half of a pregnancy.

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