Expecting a child is an exciting time for any mum to be but it can be difficult to understand how your employer can help you to experience a safe and enjoyable pregnancy while remaining at work until you get near to your due date, especially in an environment like a warehouse.
Staying safe while pregnant
While you may want to keep your pregnancy to yourself in the early days, it is important to remember that it is the earliest stages of pregnancy that are the most critical for your developing child so it is in your best interest to let your employer know that you are pregnant as soon as possible.
The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007, Part 6, Chapter 2, Protection of Pregnant, Post Natal and Breastfeeding Employees applies when you let your employer know that you are pregnant and provide an appropriate medical certificate.
In a warehouse environment you can find that you stand for long periods and walk long distances in a shift which can become uncomfortable so you need to have a think about how suitable your work is for you during your pregnancy and highlight any elements of your work that you are concerned about including:
- Long night shifts
- Standing for long periods of time
- Long hours
You can raise your concerns with your GP or midwife and if needed they can provide you with a medical certificate asking that you are not exposed to certain aspects.
Your employer will also be taking steps to ensure that your working conditions do not put you or your baby’s health at risk. Some of the high risk activities that your employer will be assessing are:
- Working at height
- Working at high or low temperatures
- Excessive noise or vibration
- Working alone for long periods of time
- Unusually stressful work
Your employer will then need to take reasonable action to minimise the risk to you and your unborn child in one of the following ways:
- By temporarily adjusting working conditions or hours of work
- By offering suitable, alternative work at the same rate of pay
While you are pregnant it is inevitable that will need to use the toilet more often, so don’t forget to speak with your employer about having more frequent rest breaks.
Maternity leave and time off
Your entitlement to maternity leave and maternity pay will depend on the length of time you have worked for an employer and your usual earnings. If you are an agency worker, you may not be entitled to any maternity leave or pay and so you should ask your agency for details specific to you. If in doubt, contact www.gov.uk to find out if you are entitled to any statutory benefits during this time.
If you are absent from work due to pregnancy related sickness within four weeks of your baby’s due date, this will trigger your maternity leave automatically (even if you had planned to work until closer to the birth.)
When you have worked for 12 weeks with the same employer, you're entitled to paid time off for antenatal classes and appointments. For some agency workers things may be a little different so you should check with your own agency for details. If you are entitled, you must be paid at your current hourly rate for each hour of work you miss. Your agency can ask you to provide proof of your appointments and ask you how long you will need to take off to attend them.
You should avoid taking time off work where you could reasonably arrange classes or appointments outside working hours.
What the law says
By law, pregnant women cannot work during the first two weeks after giving birth. (Factory workers must not work for four weeks.)
It is unlawful for your employer to dismiss you or treat you unfavourably because you cannot do the same work as a result of health and safety risks during pregnancy or when you have given birth or are breastfeeding.
You should not face discrimination because you're pregnant. The following applies to both permanently employed staff and temporary / agency workers:
- Your employer / agency cannot end your job or not offer you work
- Your employer / agency can’t treat you worse than other workers
- Your employer / agency cannot refuse you work.
An employer / agency can't discriminate against you indirectly because you're pregnant. Indirect discrimination could be where an agency refuses to accept you onto its books because you only want to take part-time work because you're pregnant.
Or if an agency only offers short-term jobs to you while offering longer term jobs to agency workers who aren't pregnant. If the agency does this, it would have to justify why they're doing it.
You can find more information about working while pregnant at the following links:
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