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Expectant mothers

Expectant mothers


Your legal responsibility

You must carry out a risk assessment in the workplace for new or expectant mothers.

However, employees aren't legally required to inform their employers when they're pregnant or a new mother. Until you get written notice of this, you aren't required to take any action. Therefore, you should advise employees who are expecting to give written notice as early as possible.

You can also ask for a certificate from your employee's GP or midwife confirming her pregnancy.

What law applies?

  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

Risk assessments

The risk assessment you carry out should follow the The 5-step approach to risk assessments as recommended by the Health and Safety Executive. You should make sure that your assessment takes into account female employees who in the future could be expectant mothers.

When you get a written notice from a worker that she is pregnant, has given birth in the last 6 months or is breastfeeding, you need to carry out a specific risk assessment. During the assessment, you should consider any advice given by her health professional.

Hazards to new and expectant mothers

Physical hazards include:

  • Awkward spaces and workstations
  • Vibration
  • Noise
  • Radiation
  • Biological agents
  • Infections

Chemical hazards include any drugs, chemicals or pesticides.

Working conditions that can be hazards include:

  • Inadequate facilities (including rest rooms)
  • Excessive working hours (e.g. night work)
  • Stressful work
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke
  • High or low workplace temperatures
  • Working alone
  • Working at heights
  • Travelling
  • Violence at work

If you find risks

You must remove, reduce or control any risks you find. If you can't, you should:

  • temporarily adjust her working conditions and/or hours of work; or, if this isn't possible
  • offer her suitable alternative work at the same rate of pay; or, if this isn't possible
  • suspend her from work on paid leave for as long as necessary to protect her and her child's health and safety.


It's for the mother to decide how long she wishes to breastfeed; returning to work doesn't mean that she has to stop. If she chooses to breastfeed at work, she should provide you with written notice ideally before she returns. You must then carry out a specific risk assessment.

Night work

New and expectant mothers can work nights, unless there is a specific work risk and her GP or midwife has given a medical certificate stating that she must not work nights. If this is the case, you must offer her suitable alternative day work on the same terms and conditions. If that isn't possible, you can suspend her from work on paid leave for as long as necessary to protect her and her child's health and safety.


The regulations require you to provide suitable facilities for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to rest. Where necessary these should include somewhere for her to lie down.

The Health and Safety Executive recommends that it's good practice for employers to provide a private, healthy and safe environment for nursing mothers to express and store milk (but this isn't a legal requirement). It's not suitable to use toilets for this purpose.

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