As soon as an employer has received written notification of pregnancy from an employee, a risk assessment should be carried out.
The employee should give their employer a copy of any advice that their Doctor/Midwife has given them if it could have an impact on the pregnant employee’s risk assessment. The risk assessment’s purpose is to evaluate the employee’s ability to carry out their role and to identify any possible risks to mother and baby.
Examples of some risks are:
- Standing/sitting for long periods
- Lifting/carrying heavy loads
- Threat of violence in the workplace
- Long working hours
- Excessively noisy workplaces
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Work-related stress
- Workstations and posture
Set out below are the different stages of a pregnant employee risk assessment:
Step 1: Identify the risks (bearing in mind that there may not be any.
Step 2 – Determine what can be done to reduce/remove any of the risks identified in Step 1. This may mean modifying the working hours or conditions of the pregnant employee. This stage can also involve assigning the employee to an alternative role during pregnancy. It is important to remember that the employer is not allowed to alter the employee’s pay for the duration of this change in role.
Step 3 – If the identified risks are great and no possibility of removal/reduction can be found (this may not be practical within the workplace etc.), the employer may decide to suspend the employee from duties until the health and safety of the mother and unborn child/children is no longer threatened. This is known as Health & Safety Leave. Health and Safety Leave can also be applicable for breastfeeding mothers. During Health & Safety Leave (the period of suspension) the employee is entitled to full pay from the employer for the first three weeks. Exceptions can occur if the employee has unreasonably refused to do the alternative ‘risk-free’ work offered to them or if the employee does not meet any reasonable requirements.
The Department of Social Protection pays Health and Safety Benefit after the first three weeks of Health and Safety Leave has passed. In order to qualify for Health and Safety Benefit, you must meet certain criteria and PRSI contribution conditions. Employees are still considered to be in employment so they continue to accumulate their annual leave entitlement. However, they are not entitled to payment for public holidays that occur while on Health and Safety Leave.
It is essential that the employer regularly monitors and reviews any assessment made to take account of the possible risks that may occur at the different stages of pregnancy.