Question: should my employer undertake a risk assessment for me if I am pregnant?

Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, answers the question:

“Should my employer undertake a risk assessment for me if I am pregnant?”

All employers have an obligation under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/3242) /(“the Regulations”) to assess the risks of a workplace and make adjustments to working conditions or hours of work to ensure that any significant risk to new or expectant mothers is avoided (Regulation 16 of the Regulations). The risk assessment must be “suitable” and “sufficient” and must investigate the risks that the employee is exposed to as a result of their employment (Regulation 3).

If an employer fails to carry out a risk assessment as required by Regulation 16 then the employer may have committed an act of unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination (under section 18 of the Equality Act 2010).

In the case of Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest Ltd (QVSR) v Ward UKEAT/0465/08 (analysed in this post) the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld a Tribunal’s findings that the employer’s course of conduct (including a failure to undertake a risk assessment) amounted to unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

Note: that in order for Regulations 3 and 16 to apply, the pregnant employee must notify the employer in writing that she is pregnant, has given birth in the last six months, or is breastfeeding. The pregnant employee must also, if requested by her employer, provide to the employer a doctor’s or midwife’s certificate showing she is pregnant.

Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented: “Employers have an obligation to undertake a risk assessment for all employees but they also have an obligation, in relevant circumstances, to undertake specific risk assessments in respect of new or expectant mothers – employers should be aware that, should they fail to undertake such an assessment for new or expectant mothers, they could potentially open themselves up to a claim for discrimination.”