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HSE SPELLS OUT HOW EMPLOYERS SHOULD HELP PREGNANT WOMEN

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Today the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published new guidance to...
Today the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published new guidance to

help employers ensure pregnant women have a safe and healthy

experience at work.

Employers must carry out a proper risk assessment to identify

potential hazards to pregnant workers.

New and Expectant Mothers at Work, A Guide for Employers, strongly

supported by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and Tommy's,

the baby charity, explains how to do this, and gives detailed advice

on the possible chemical, physical and biological risks to new and

expectant mothers.

More than one in four pregnant women experience a miscarriage, one in

200 babies are stillborn, and 100 premature babies are born every

day. New and expectant mothers should avoid:

- lifting heavy loads

- working in confined spaces

- working at unsuitable workstations

- working in stressful or violent environments

- working with lead

Head of HSE's Health Management Unit, Colleen Bowen, said: 'Pregnancy

is not an illness. Pregnant women should not be signed off sick for

work-related ill health problems. New and expectant mothers are

entitled to a change in working conditions, should be offered

suitable alternative work, or if that's not possible, suspended from

work at the same rate of pay if risks to her or her child's health

and safety have been identified. Employers have a legal and moral

duty to protect women of childbearing age from hazards and risks in

the workplace. HSE will investigate complaints made to them and take

whatever action is deemed necessary under health and safety

legislation.

'Setting up a maternity policy is not difficult, the new guidance

tells you how to do it, and gives greater benefits to employers and

employees. If employers fail in their duties they could be found in

breach of health and safety legislation and be prosecuted by HSE.

They could also be taken to industrial tribunals where they could

face substantia l compensation payouts.'

EOC statistics found that in 2001, out of 1,434 potential tribunal

cases involving pregnancy maternity related discrimination, 1,387

involved some breach of health and safety legislation. Figures from

Equal Opportunities Review, a legal journal, show that the employers

are increasingly having to pay higher awards in sex discrimination

cases and the average compensation payout for a case involving

dismissal due to pregnancy is£9,871. However there is no limit to

how much companies could be ordered to pay in compensation.

Julie Mellor, chair of EOC, said: 'By failing to tackle the health

and safety implications of pregnancy, firms can find that not only do

they lose a valuable worker who has had to be signed off sick, but

they may also be breaching the Sex Discrimination Act.

'The number of complaints that can potentially be taken to an

industrial tribunal shows that many employers are very unclear over

what they need to do. This clear and easy to understand guide will

help address this confusion, benefiting employers and pregnant women

alike in managing pregnancy in the workplace.'

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) estimates that it costs

employers around£3,500 per employee to recruit new staff after a new

or expectant mother has left.

Jane Brewin, chief executive of Tommy's, said: 'It makes good

business sense to employers to encourage healthy pregnancy in the

workplace leading to better employee relations and productivity, as

well as increasing the chances that they will return to work.

Mitigating against risks to the unborn child in the workplace is an

integral part of Tommy's Pregnancy Accreditation Programme, in which

we work with employers to ensure every working woman's desire to

maximise their chance of having a healthy pregnancy and baby is

actively encouraged in the workplace.

'There is a growing body of evidence that illustrates women are at a

higher risk of having a premature baby if they work in an extremely

demanding and stressful environment. We welcome this new guide, as it

will help employers to provide the right working environment for

pregnant women in the workplace.'

Notes

1. The term 'new and expectant mothers' covers women who are

pregnant, have given birth in the last six months or are

breastfeeding.

2. Employer requirements are made under Regulations 3, 16, 17, and 18

of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

3. Number of complaints received and investigations initiated by HSE

in the last five years.

YEAR COMPLAINTS INVESTIGATIONS

1997/98 79 10

1998/99 89 13

1999/2000 94 26

2000/01 67 8

2001/02 67 3

TOTAL 396 60

HSE's enforcement policy adopts a risk-based approach and inspection

activity is often concerned with offering advice rather than taking

formal action. Complaints made to HSE are checked for validity and in

the main followed-up by writing to employers providing advice on what

action they are required to take. In the cases on maternity issues,

further action was deemed unnecessary as employers followed advice

given. Improvement notices or prosecutions are only likely to be

considered in cases where there is a significant risk, a wilful

disregard for established standards or persistent poor compliance

with the law.

4. The new guidance incorporates European Commission guidelines on

the assessment of chemical, physical and biological agents and

industrial processes considered hazardous for the safety or health of

pregnant workers, workers who have recently given birth or are

breastfeeding. There is a link to the EC guidelines on the HSE

Website www.hse.gov.uk/hthdir/noframes/mothers.htm under 'Sources of

further information'.

5. Attached at annex one are some examples, provided by the EOC , of

bad working practices by employers after learning that one of their

employees was pregnant. The EOC helpline is 08456 015901.

6. Compensation payouts awarded, compiled by the Equal Opportunities

Review (EOR no 108/Aug 02)

AVERAGE AWARD FOR DISMISSAL DUE TO PREGNANCY£9,871

AVERAGE AWARD FOR INJURY TO FEELINGS IN SEX DISCRIMINATION CASES

£4,349

RANGE OF AWARDS FOR AGGRAVATED DAMAGES IN SEX DISCRIMINATION CASES

£2,000 to£50,000

AWARDS FOR PERSONAL INJURY IN SEX DISCRIMINATION CASES£1,000 to

£17,000

There is no statutory limit on the total amount of compensation under

the Sex Discrimination Act. The majority of cases are settled out of

court. Details of the Sex Discrimination Act and Employment Rights

Act - can be found on the internet at

http://www.eoc.org.uk/cseng/advice/pregnancy_and_maternity__

the_law.asp

7. Attached at annex two are some case studies of good practice, by

organisations that have been accredited to Tommy's Pregnancy

accreditation programme. Through the Pregnancy Accreditation

Programme, Tommy's aims to work with employers in order to ensure

every working woman's desire to have a healthy pregnancy and baby is

maximised. Tommy's would like to hear from employers interested in

the Pregnancy Accreditation Programme. Contact Karen Wint on 020 7593

1122, or visit their website www.tommys.org

8. DTI statistics on new and expectant mothers at work.

APPROXIMATE NUMBER OF PREGNANT WOMEN WORKING PER YEAR 350,000

APPROXIMATE NUMBER OF WOMEN WHO RETURN TO WORK AFTER GIVING BIRTH

240,000

PERCENTAGE OF WOMEN WHO RETURNED TO WORK 69%

RECRUITMENT AND TRAINING COSTS PER VACANCY£3,500

RECRUITMENT SAVING COSTS IF NUMBER OF MOTHERS RETURNING TO WORK

INCREASED BY 10 PER CENT£39m

Work and Parents: Competitiveness and Choice - Research and Analysis

(November 2000) available at www2.dti .gov.uk/er/research.pdf.

Copies of New and expectant mothers at work - A guide for employers

HSG122, ISBN 07176 25834, price£9.50 can be ordered online at

www.hsebooks.co.uk or are available from

HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 2WA, tel: 01787-881165

or fax: 01787-313995. HSE priced publications are also available from

all good bookshops.

Public Enquiries: Call HSE's InfoLine, tel: 08701 545500, or write

to: HSE Information Services, Caerphilly Business Park, Caerphilly

CF83 3GG.

Annex 1. Examples of bad working practices by employers after

learning that one of their employees was pregnant.

Provided by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC)

1. A general manager in a London Marketing firm informed her employer

of her pregnancy. The employer responded by putting exceptional

pressure on her to exceed sales targets in the run-up to her

maternity leave, required her to travel to meetings abroad at short

notice, so increasing her hours of work and he constantly shouted at

her. After one such incident she was rushed to hospital from work

with a threatened miscarriage. Subsequently she was diagnosed with

post-traumatic stress disorder and depression as a result of her

treatment at work.

2. A telesales operator trainer in London, with a history of

miscarriages, told her employers she was pregnant and asked them to

review the decision to put her onto a period of intensive, fast track

training away from home and to make temporary allowances for her

pregnancy as she was suffering from bad morning sickness and

intermittent bleeding.

Her employer refused threatened dismissal if she did not attend and

complete the training, to be followed immediately by a couple of

substantial training contracts in close succession. She attended but

was unable to keep to the hours. Her doctor signed her onto sick

leave, but she resigned as a result of continued pressures p ut on her

and her employer contacting her doctor to ask if the pregnancy was

genuine.

3. A local authority employee in the South East suffered morning

sickness during her pregnancy; travelling considerably aggravated

this. She was forced to take sick leave and when she asked to work

from home on a temporary basis she was refused, although it was

travelling which caused the problem. She complained and asked for the

issue to be handled as a health and safety matter. She was suspended

on full pay until her maternity leave kicked in.

Any period away from work that arises in the context of health and

safety situation related to pregnancy should be treated as a

suspension on full pay. The employer should have conducted a risk

assessment into all aspects of the work and positively considered

making adjustments to the post, which could have included working

from home.

4. A residential care worker based in Merseyside was dismissed on

notifying her employer of her pregnancy after a general risk

assessment identified some aspects of the job, such as heavy lifting

and working with difficult patients, as hazardous.

There is no provision under Health and Safety legislation for fair

dismissal. Dismissals for pregnancy-related reasons are unlawful

under the Employment Rights and Sex Discrimination Acts. After

carrying out a general risk assessment, the employer should have

carried out a risk assessment of all the duties of this care worker,

considering her pregnancy, and then made temporary adjustment to the

post to accommodate the pregnancy.

5. A manager in an accountancy firm in Nottinghamshire who had

informed the firm's partners of her pregnancy had her workload

increased with a number of projects assigned to her in the run-up to

maternity leave. This entailed working to different people and

necessitated working very long. She was also treated rudely.

As a result she suffered fatigue and considerable stress . She invited

the partners to consider their obligations under equality legislation

and the health and safety implications. The employer immediately

engaged a professional to do a risk assessment. Despite some issues

of the assessment being tackled, nothing was done about her workload,

hours, or management problems.

6. As a result of her pregnancy, a probationer police constable in

Suffolk was removed from her training to less satisfying

administrative duties despite her GP's assessment that she could

continue with the training. Her career was halted and she would have

had to start her training afresh on return from her maternity leave.

7. A pregnant woman employed as a delivery driver and warehouse

assistant in Bristol was concerned about some heavy lifting duties

she felt would put her pregnancy at risk. She had a history of

miscarriages. Management advised her to 'use her common sense' and

not to take on inappropriate tasks. She was paid statutory sick pay

when she absented herself from work as a result of her concerns.

Health and Safety regulations place responsibilities on the employer.

Asking the employee to be responsible for not taking on inappropriate

tasks does not comply with the regulations. Immediately on being

notified of the pregnancy, the employer should have carried out a

risk assessment, taking into account her history of miscarriages, and

action should have been taken to suitably adjust the working

practices. Any period away from work that arises in the context of

health and safety situation related to pregnancy should be treated as

a suspension on full pay.

Annex 2. Examples of good working practices by employers.

Provided by Tommy's the baby charity

MARKS & SPENCER

By undertaking risk assessments it is possible to properly assess

health risks to new and expectant mothers and give appropriate advice

and education to both management and employees at the same time. Not

only does this ensure compliance with the law but it also leads to

inclusivity for the pregnant worker and fairness of approach.

For Marks & Spencer, where 80% of the workforce is female, the

management of pre-conception, pregnancy and breast-feeding at work is

very important. We wish to do this professionally using evidence

based medicine where it exists - the risk assessment process has

allowed this to develop.

Above all we feel involved and understand which job modifications are

required during which phase of pregnancy/breast feeding and why.

Being the first company to join Tommy's Pregnancy Accreditation

scheme has helped us develop a positive attitude to pregnancy and

pregnancy related issues at work. This benefits employers, employees,

their families and therefore society at large.

(Anne Price, Head of Occupational Health, Marks & Spencer 2002)

LLOYDS TSB

Upon revisiting our parental leave package we identified a gap in our

offering, which the support of Tommy's, the baby charity's, Pregnancy

Accreditation has fully filled.

All organisations have a legal and moral obligation to carry a risk

assessment for pregnant women in the workplace. It also makes sound

business sense! We cannot afford to be complacent. There are risks to

pregnant women in our industry and as an employer it is our

responsibility to ensure that they have a healthy and safe

environment to work in. In our organisation, line managers have

responsibility for carrying out general risk assessments of the

workplace, using HSE's guidance.

The costs for us have been minimal through using existing mechanisms

to communicate the process. The result is happy, healthy staff who

feel that they are looked after and supported by their employer. This

can only have a positive effect on both the individual's morale and

that of their colleagues. And of course the benefit of this to the

business is that they are more likely to maintain productivity and

effectiveness, which will ultimately impact positively on our

customers

With up to 2000 women on maternity leave at any one time, the health

and safety of new and expectant mothers is a very important issue for

Lloyds TSB. We welcome this proactive and comprehensive guidance

document from the HSE, it's an excellent and important resource for

all employers irrespective of their size or industry.

(Ryan Lynch, Equality and Diversity Consultant Lloyds TSB 2002)

Today the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published new guidance to

help employers ensure pregnant women have a safe and healthy

experience at work.

Employers must carry out a proper risk assessment to identify

potential hazards to pregnant workers.

New and Expectant Mothers at Work, A Guide for Employers, strongly

supported by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and Tommy's,

the baby charity, explains how to do this, and gives detailed advice

on the possible chemical, physical and biological risks to new and

expectant mothers.

More than one in four pregnant women experience a miscarriage, one in

200 babies are stillborn, and 100 premature babies are born every

day. New and expectant mothers should avoid:

- lifting heavy loads

- working in confined spaces

- working at unsuitable workstations

- working in stressful or violent environments

- working with lead

Head of HSE's Health Management Unit, Colleen Bowen, said: 'Pregnancy

is not an illness. Pregnant women should not be signed off sick for

work-related ill health problems. New and expectant mothers are

entitled to a change in working conditions, should be offered

suitable alternative work, or if that's not possible, suspended from

work at the same rate of pay if risks to her or her child's health

and safety have been identified. Employers have a legal and moral

duty to protect women of childbearing age from hazards and risks in

the workplace. HSE will investigate complaints made to them and take

whatever action is deemed necessary under health and safety

legislation.

'Setting up a maternity policy is not difficult, the new guidance

tells you how to do it, and gives greater benefits to employers and

employees. If employers fail in their duties they could be found in

breach of health and safety legislation and be prosecuted by HSE.

They could also be taken to industrial tribunals where they could

face substantial compensation payouts.'

EOC statistics found that in 2001, out of 1,434 potential tribunal

cases involving pregnancy maternity related discrimination, 1,387

involved some breach of health and safety legislation. Figures from

Equal Opportunities Review, a legal journal, show that the employers

are increasingly having to pay higher awards in sex discrimination

cases and the average compensation payout for a case involving

dismissal due to pregnancy is£9,871. However there is no limit to

how much companies could be ordered to pay in compensation.

Julie Mellor, chair of EOC, said: 'By failing to tackle the health

and safety implications of pregnancy, firms can find that not only do

they lose a valuable worker who has had to be signed off sick, but

they may also be breaching the Sex Discrimination Act.

'The number of complaints that can potentially be taken to an

industrial tribunal shows that many employers are very unclear over

what they need to do. This clear and easy to understand guide will

help address this confusion, benefiting employers and pregnant women

alike in managing pregnancy in the workplace.'

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) estimates that it costs

employers around£3,500 per employee to recruit new staff after a new

or expectant mother has left.

Jane Brewin, chief executive of Tommy's, said: 'It makes good

business sense to employers to encourage healthy pregnancy in the

workplace leading to better employee relations and productivity, as

well as increasing the chances that they will return to work.

Mitigating against risks to the unborn child in the workplace is an

integral part of Tommy's Pregnancy Accreditation Programme, in which

we work with employers to ensure every working woman's desire to

maximise their chance of having a healthy pregnancy and baby is

actively encouraged in the workplace.

'There is a growing body of evidence that illustrates women are at a

higher risk of having a premature baby if they work in an extremely

demanding and stressful environment. We welcome this new guide, as it

will help employers to provide the right working environment for

pregnant women in the workplace.'

Notes

1. The term 'new and expectant mothers' covers women who are

pregnant, have given birth in the last six months or are

breastfeeding.

2. Employer requirements are made under Regulations 3, 16, 17, and 18

of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

3. Number of complaints received and investigations initiated by HSE

in the last five years.

YEAR COMPLAINTS INVESTIGATIONS

1997/98 79 10

1998/99 89 13

1999/2000 94 26

2000/01 67 8

2001/02 67 3

TOTAL 396 60

HSE's enforcement policy adopts a risk-based approach and inspection

activity is often concerned with offering advice rather than taking

formal action. Complaints made to HSE are checked for validity and in

the main followed-up by writing to employers providing advice on what

action they are required to take. In the cases on maternity issues,

further action was deemed unnecessary as employers followed advice

given. Improvement notices or prosecutions are only likely to be

considered in cases where there is a significant risk, a wilful

disregard for established standards or persistent poor compliance

with the law.

4. The new guidance incorporates European Commission guidelines on

the assessment of chemical, physical and biological agents and

industrial processes considered hazardous for the safety or health of

pregnant workers, workers who have recently given birth or are

breastfeeding. There is a link to the EC guidelines on the HSE

Website www.hse.gov.uk/hthdir/noframes/mothers.htm under 'Sources of

further information'.

5. Attached at annex one are some examples, provided by the EOC, of

bad working practices by employers after learning that one of their

employees was pregnant. The EOC helpline is 08456 015901.

6. Compensation payouts awarded, compiled by the Equal Opportunities

Review (EOR no 108/Aug 02)

AVERAGE AWARD FOR DISMISSAL DUE TO PREGNANCY £9,871

AVERAGE AWARD FOR INJURY TO FEELINGS IN SEX DISCRIMINATION CASES

£4,349

RANGE OF AWARDS FOR AGGRAVATED DAMAGES IN SEX DISCRIMINATION CASES

£2,000 to£50,000

AWARDS FOR PERSONAL INJURY IN SEX DISCRIMINATION CASES£1,000 to

£17,000

There is no statutory limit on the total amount of compensation under

the Sex Discrimination Act. The majority of cases are settled out of

court. Details of the Sex Discrimination Act and Employment Rights

Act - can be found on the internet at

http://www.eoc.org.uk/cseng/advice/pregnancy_and_maternity__

the_law.asp

7. Attached at annex two are some case studies of good practice, by

organisations that have been accredited to Tommy's Pregnancy

accreditation programme. Through the Pregnancy Accreditation

Programme, Tommy's aims to work with employers in order to ensure

every working woman's desire to have a healthy pregnancy and baby is

maximised. Tommy's would like to hear from employers interested in

the Pregnancy Accreditation Programme. Contactng parts of Defra and its agencies:

- Defra's Land Use and Rural Affairs Directorate-General

- Countryside Agency

- Rural Development Service

- Other parts of Defra that contribute to delivery of rural

policies

- English Nature (in so far as their work relates to the delivery

of Defra's rural policies)

3. It should also:

- examine the implications for the Countryside Agency of the rural

Public Services Agreement target and the creation of Defra, bearing

in mind the latter's new leadership role in rural affairs in

government;

- examine the respective roles of the Regional Development Agencies,

the Government Offices for the Regions, the National Parks

Authorities, the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty teams, the

Forestry Commission, British Waterways, the Small Business Service,

local and voluntary sector delivery agents, local authorities, and

parish and town councils in furthering the achievement of Defra's

rural objectives, and consider whether changes are desirable in the

contributions they bring to bear or the responsibilities which they

discharge on behalf of or in partnership with the Department;

- take account of the emerging findings of the review of learning

opportunities to improve rural businesses announced in November by

Defra;

- look at the activities of the Environment Agency (in so far as

their work relates to the delivery of Defra's rural policies);

- look at the relationship between EU structural funds in rural

communities and other expenditure programmes.

4. The following are outside the scope of the review:

- the Rural Payments Agency, except the interface and relationship

with the Rural Development Service;

- the State Veterinary Service;

- the non-rural environmental activity of the Department and of the

Environment Agency.

5. In addressing the above issues, the review team will:

- need to start from a clear understanding of the Government's rural

policies and policy objectives, which do not in themselves fall

within the scope of the review;

- take account of developments affecting the likely future shape of

regional and local government,

- have regard to the desirability of strengthening the role of the

Regional Development Agencies in rural economic development;

- take account of parallel reviews of forestry policy in England,

the Rural White Paper programme, and agri-environment schemes

(including the establishment of pilots);

- make arrangements for consulting and keeping informed those bodies

and agencies that lie within the scope of the review and take

evidence from a broadly representative sample of stakeholders,

including those currently responsible for delivering rural

programmes;

- use the Rural Affairs Forum for England and its active sub-groups

(including the Regional Forums) to provide a forum for debate and

discussion during the course of the review;

- devise a communications strategy to ensure effective communication

with all those potentially affected by the outcome of the review;

- report progress as required to the Minister of State for Rural

Affairs and to an official Steering Group that includes

representatives of interested government departments.

6. The timetable for the review will be as follows:

- draft a report on the scope of the review, and secure Ministerial

approval of that report, by 20 December 2002;

- present a report on findings and emerging conclusions to Defra

Ministers by the end of April 2003;

- present a final report to Defra ministers by mid-July 2003, to

include recommendations for future action supported by a costed

business case and a timetable of implementation.

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