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Pregnant, post natal and breastfeeding employees

Pregnancy risk assessment

On receiving notification that an employee is pregnant, the manager must assess the risks. They must take action to ensure that the pregnant employee is not exposed to anything in the workplace that will damage the safety or health of the pregnant employee or that of the developing child. Use the pregnancy risk assessment to guide the risk assessment process.

Pregnant employee risk assessment (Word, 49 KB, 5 pages)

Pregnant employee risk assessment fillable form template (Word, 68 KB 7 pages)

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

The manager should discuss the outcome of the risk assessment with the pregnant employee. 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 the employee with suitable alternative work

Step 3. Approving health and safety leave for the employee

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 the employee and the employer.

The pregnant employee should inform their manager of any medical advice from their doctor or midwife that may affect the pregnancy risk assessment.

The manager should review the risk assessment intermittently throughout the pregnancy.

Pregnant employees fast factsheet (PDF, 340 KB, 3 pages)

Pregnant employee risk assessment (Word, 49 KB, 5 pages)

Pregnant employee risk assessment fillable form template (Word, 68 KB 7 pages)

Working safely during pregnancy

Temperature extremes

Some pregnant people 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 employees 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 pregnant employee 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 of the chemicals used 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).

There is a requirement to ensure the display screen equipment risk assessment is reviewed and updated as appropriate.

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 on your return to work, until your child's second birthday.

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. The breaks may be taken until your child's second birthday, if needed.

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

Related content

Breastfeeding breaks

Pregnant employee risk assessment (Word, 49 KB, 5 pages)

Pregnant employee risk assessment fillable form template (Word, 68 KB 7 pages)

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