What to Expect When Your Employee’s Expecting: Compliance Training for New and Expectant Mothers at Work

by | May 29, 2024 | Mandatory & Compliance

Many women in the UK choose to continue working throughout pregnancy (around 350,000 each year) and return to work after childbirth (around 250,000). While pregnancy and motherhood are rewarding experiences, they can also bring about significant changes that impact work-life balance. By understanding the legal landscape and potential risks faced by pregnant women and new mothers, employers can create a practical plan to keep their workplaces safe and supportive for all.

At Health Academy, we deliver a ‘New and Expectant Mothers at Work’ training course which provides both employers and employees with everything they need to know about returning to work post-pregnancy and considerations for expectant mothers. In the following blog we highlight real life cases where employers failed to carry out their obligations to their pregnant or returning employees, leading to unsafe workplaces and legal issues.

A pregnant woman sat at her work desk

Reducing the Risks: For Expectant Mothers and for Employers

Employers must carry out a generic risk assessment which covers risks in the workplace for everyone, but if any employees are women of child-bearing age, then the assessment must consider any risks that might particularly affect a woman if she was pregnant or a new mother. Employers should revisit the risk assessment once they’ve received written confirmation that someone’s pregnant, tell their employee about any risks they found and what measures they have put in place to remove or control them.

In the legal case of Hardman v Mallon (t/a Orchard Lodge Nursing Home) dealt with a pregnant employee’s rights. Ms. Hardman sued her employer, Orchard Lodge Nursing Home, for failing to:

  • Conduct a risk assessment to identify potential dangers to her health and safety during pregnancy.
  • Offer her alternative employment during her maternity suspension.

The court ruled that the employer’s failure to conduct a risk assessment amounted to sex discrimination. This case highlights the legal requirement for employers to consider pregnant employees’ well-being and ensure a safe work environment.

Risk assessment for a new or expectant mother at work

Newborn Bliss Shouldn’t Mean Career Miss: Maternity Leave Rights

Another requirement for employees is to keep women on maternity leave informed of vacant positions when there is a reorganisation which could affect them. The case of Visa International Service Association v Paul highlights the legal implications not doing so can have.

While an employee, Paul, was on maternity leave her department underwent restructuring, and two new positions were created. Upon returning, she complained that she wasn’t informed about these openings before they were filled and that she would have been interested in applying. The company (Visa) claimed she lacked the necessary experience and wasn’t considered. In response, Paul filed a legal complaint against them for unfair treatment related to her pregnancy. This included claims of constructive dismissal (being forced to resign due to unfair conditions), discrimination due to her pregnancy, and unequal treatment based on gender.

A tribunal found that Paul’s employer’s failure to inform her of the vacant post was detrimental treatment on the grounds of her pregnancy and that her dismissal was unfair because it related to maternity leave.

A woman waits to be interviewed for a job

Subpar Substitute? Returning to a Different Role after Maternity Leave

It is not just during pregnancy or maternity leave that employers must fulfil their legal obligations. In the case of Blundell v Governing Body of St Andrew’s Roman Catholic Primary School, a teacher, who had taught a reception class before taking her maternity leave, returned from maternity leave and was offered a choice of two new roles: a substitute teacher position or teaching an older age group she hadn’t taught before. While she took the older age group role, she felt it was unfairly demanding due to her lack of experience and the added pressure of national tests for that age. She argued this was discrimination due to her pregnancy and that she wasn’t placed back in her old job.

The court initially dismissed her claim. Her contract allowed the school to assign her any class. Technically, her old job was simply “teacher,” not “reception class teacher.”

However, on appeal, the court ruled in favour of the teacher. The law guarantees a returning employee a position “as close as possible” to the one they left. In this case, the court felt the new role wasn’t a typical change a teacher in her position could expect.

Health Academy’s New and Expectant Mothers at Work Training

Failing to be aware of the legal risks of non-compliance in relation to new and expectant mothers brings risk to both employees and employers. You can ensure that your organisation avoids these risks by taking Health Academy’s comprehensive, hour-long training course, from the comfort of your own desk. Head to the Health Academy website to find details of the course and other related mandatory and compliance training to keep your organisation up to date with the latest training.

Check out our our range of compliance training courses

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