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Pregnant Employees – Avoiding the Risks

Avoiding risks for pregnant employees may involve altering their working conditions or hours, offering them alternative work or, as a last resort, suspending them. We cover what do you need to do to be legally compliant with the statutory provisions?

Avoiding risks

Once you’ve been notified in writing that an employee is pregnant, you’re obliged to take any measures that are reasonable to remove or prevent exposure to any significant health and safety risk that has been found in your risk assessment. You must give information to the employee about that risk and the measures taken to remove, reduce or control it. Unless the risk can be avoided through other means, you must temporarily alter the employee’s working conditions or hours of work.

The legislation is silent on how changes to working conditions or hours affect the employee’s pay. If the employee is on a fixed salary (whether annual or hourly paid), you probably can’t reduce this. However, if the employee has no guaranteed hours or pay, it’s possible her pay can be reduced.

Suitable alternative work

If it’s not reasonable to alter the employee’s working conditions or hours, or doing so wouldn’t avoid the risk, you must offer her suitable alternative work. Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, the offer of alternative work will only be suitable where it’s of a kind which is both suitable in relation to her and appropriate for her to do in the circumstances; and where the terms and conditions for performing the work are not substantially less favourable than her current terms and conditions.

The overall level of the employee’s pay for the alternative work must not be substantially less than her previous pay. This is the case even if that pay includes bonuses, commission or other allowances for job duties that she won’t be undertaking in the alternative role.

Maternity suspension

If there’s no suitable alternative work available, or if the employee reasonably refuses it, you must suspend her on pay for as long as is necessary to avoid the risk. Under the legislation she’s entitled to be paid “remuneration” during her suspension. This is defined as a “week’s pay” for each week of the period of suspension (pro rata for part weeks). A week’s pay is then calculated in accordance with the legislation, e.g. an average over the previous twelve weeks if the employee has no normal working hours, and it can be offset against any contractual pay she receives during the maternity suspension.
The employee loses her right to receive remuneration during a maternity suspension if she has unreasonably refused an offer of suitable alternative work.

For any further information in regards to this article please do not hesitate to contact our HR Consultants on 0161 926 8519 alternatively they can be contacted via email, or

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