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Coronavirus

Information for health care workers is available on healthservice.hse.ie Coronavirus guidance documents are available on hpsc.ie

Pregnant, post natal and breastfeeding employees

Safety arrangements for pregnant, post natal and breastfeeding employees.

Together with your manager, you must complete a pregnancy risk assessment (Word, 49KB, 5 pages) on your work practices and work environment.

See: Guidance on completing a pregnancy risk assessment (PDF, 337KB, 4 pages)

Pregnancy risk assessment

Your manager should discuss the outcome of the risk assessment with you. This will include any identified risks and necessary control measures.

They should assess ways to avoid the risk by:

Step 1. Adjusting the working conditions and/or hours of work

Step 2. Providing suitable alternative work

Step 3. Giving you health and safety leave

Health and safety leave is 21 paid days off and is only granted when risks cannot be reasonably controlled by using step 1 or 2. It is only granted following the risk assessment process and on agreement between you and your employer.

You should tell your manager about advice from your doctor or midwife that affects the pregnancy risk assessment.

Your manager should review the risk assessment throughout your pregnancy.

See: pregnancy risk assessment (Word, 49KB, 5 pages)

Working safely during pregnancy

Temperature extremes

Some pregnant women tolerate heat less well and may be liable to heat stress or faint easily.

No specific problems arise from working in extreme cold. Warm clothing should be provided as stated in the risk assessment.

An example of this exposure may be the cook/chill systems used in some catering departments.

Ionising radiation

Significant exposure to ionising radiation is harmful to the foetus.

Work procedures should be designed to keep exposure as low as reasonably practicable. This must be below the statutory dose limit.

Adhere to guidance provided by the Radiation Protection Officer. Internal procedures and protocols relating to this risk should be implemented.

Non-ionising radiation

Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are at no greater risk than others working with non-ionising radiation.

Examples of non-ionising radiation include:

  • ultraviolet (UV) - visible and infrared
  • electromagnetic fields (EMFs) - power frequencies, microwaves and radio frequencies

Biological agents

Some biological agents may affect the foetus if the mother is infected.

Examples of these are:

  • Rubella
  • Hepatitis B
  • HIV
  • Herpes
  • TB
  • Syphilis
  • Chickenpox
  • Typhoid
  • COVID-19

For some of these diseases, you can check your immunity level with your occupational health department. The immunisation programme is available free from occupational health.

Chemical agents

Exposure to some chemicals we use in the HSE can cause harm to the foetus, for example, the administration of certain cytotoxic drugs. Hazardous chemicals must be assessed using the chemical risk assessment process

Display Screen Equipment (DSE)

There is no evidence of risk for pregnant employees working with display screen equipment (DSE).

You should adapt your chair so your lower back is supported properly.

Related topic

Display screen equipment

Postnatal and breastfeeding employees

You are considered as a postnatal employee during the 14 weeks after giving birth.

You are considered as a breastfeeding employee if you are breastfeeding during the 26 weeks after giving birth.

Your pregnancy risk assessment must be reviewed if:

  • you return to work within 14 weeks after giving birth
  • you are breastfeeding on return to work, up to 26 weeks after giving birth

You can take time off work each day to breastfeed or express milk. This applies if you have given birth within the previous 6 months (26 weeks).

If you return to work after this time, you do not have a legal entitlement to breastfeeding breaks. But talk to your manager about breastfeeding as they may support you as you continue to breastfeed.

You can take 1 hour, with pay, off work each day as a breastfeeding break.

This time may be taken as:

  • 1 single 60-minute break
  • 2 half-hour breaks
  • 3 20 minute breaks

See: Pregnancy risk assessment (Word, 49KB, 5 pages)

Related topic

Breastfeeding and work

Health and safety leave is 21 days paid leave and is only granted after the risk assessment process.

Contact

For advice and information contact the Health and Safety helpdesk

Related content

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Biological Agents) 2013

Page last reviewed: 20/11/2020
Next review due: 20/11/2023