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Risk assessments for pregnant workers

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The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has ruled that employers have no obligation to carry out risk assessments on pregnant workers unless there is a significant health and safety problem.

Although the EAT has reduced the health and safety burden for many employers, it has ruled that, if an employer should fail to conduct an assessment when a risk does exist, then they can be challenged for sexual discrimination.

If there is a health and safety risk in relation to a new or expectant mother, the employer must take steps to avoid that risk, either by altering working hours and conditions, or by suspending the employee when no reasonable steps can be taken.
However, in terms of the Employment Rights Act, the employee must also be offered suitable alternative work and the terms of this must not be substantially less favourable than her existing role.
This means that an employee who was offered less pay for doing a job at a lower grade would be entitled to refuse that offer and be suspended on health and safety grounds with full pay.
A set of pre-conditions that would trigger the need for a risk assessment are:

• Employee’s work is of a kind that could involve a risk of harm or danger to the health and safety of a new expectant mother or to that of her baby; and
• Employee risk arises from either processes or working conditions or physical, biological or chemical agents in the work place.

According to the EAT, employers do not need to hold face-to-face meetings with pregnant staff to conduct a risk assessment. A ‘paper exercise’, which gives employees comprehensive and relevant information on health and safety risks, is sufficient.


Written by Andrew Hodges

February 5, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Posted in Comment, LinkedIn

Tagged with , ,

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