Protecting the health and safety of pregnant workers

The new health and safety toolkit for pregnant workers is vitally needed, as Kate Moran, senior policy officer at Maternity Action, explains.

Comment from Kate Moran

From the start of the Covid pandemic in 2020, Maternity Action’s advice lines were inundated with calls from pregnant women concerned that their employer was not doing enough to protect them and their baby from workplace safety risks. Risk assessments were either not being carried out or were poorly done, often by managers who had no training or expertise.

But the pandemic only served to highlight the problems with current health and safety provisions for pregnant women and new mothers, which Maternity Action knew had existed for years. Callers to our advice lines often have little awareness of their rights or the obligations on employers to take action to make the workplace safe, make reasonable adjustments, find suitable alternative work or ultimately suspend pregnant employees on full pay if they are unable to take effective action.

In 2021 Maternity Action undertook a survey of women who had been pregnant and working since the start of the pandemic. This showed that:

  • over two-thirds were very worried or fairly worried about catching Covid in the course of their work
  • 59 per cent had raised concerns with their employer but one in five said no action was taken to protect them
  • over a third were worried that their job would be at risk if they took leave or pressed their employer to do more to protect them.

The new health and safety toolkit, produced by Maternity Action and the CSP with support from the TUC, is designed to help CSP safety reps and stewards ensure that the health and safety of members is protected from the moment a rep becomes aware that a member is pregnant, to their return to work and beyond. 

It is mainly targeted at safety reps but will also be useful for other reps who may be the first point of contact for a colleague who is experiencing problems at work because of their pregnancy. 

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