All employers are required to assess risks to the health and safety of new and expectant mothers employed by them. New and expectant mothers may be able to claim unlawful sex discrimination if an employer fails to carry out a risk assessment.
Some of the more common risks might be;
- lifting and carrying
- standing or sitting for long periods of time
- exposure to infectious diseases
- threat of violence in the workplace
- long working hours
An employer may need to temporarily adjust the P.A.’s duties and/or hours of work, or if this is not an option, suspend her from work for as long as necessary to protect her safety or health. This is called Maternity Suspension.
The employee continues to be employed during the maternity suspension period, which therefore counts towards her period of continuous employment for the purposes of assessing seniority, pension rights, holiday entitlements and other personal length-of-service payments, such as pay increments and awards.
Entitlements during maternity suspension
An employee on maternity suspension is entitled to be paid wages or salary at her full normal rate for as long as the suspension continues. The only exception is where she has unreasonably refused an offer of suitable alternative work, in which case no remuneration is payable for the period during which the offer applies.
If an employee has both a statutory right and a contractual right to payment during maternity suspension, such entitlements are offset against each other.
Dismissal on grounds related to maternity suspension
It is unlawful for an employer to dismiss an employee, or to select her for redundancy in preference to other comparable employees, solely or mainly because of health and safety regulations which could give rise to maternity suspension. An employee dismissed or selected for redundancy in these circumstances is entitled to make a complaint of unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal.
All employees or employers in the situations described above should seek further advice before proceeding. Advice can be found on
Managing expectant and new mothers at work page on theBusiness Link website
What is maternity suspension page on the ACAS website
Suspension from work on medical/health and safety grounds page on the Direct Government website
Maternity suspension payments page on the HMRC website
Employers with insurance for employment law issues should contact the insurance organisation who will advise how to proceed. If the insurance organisation is not consulted at the outset you may find that you are not eligible for assistance should problems arise and the issue be taken to court.