Assaulted during pregnancy

I am currently five weeks pregnant. I disclosed this to work due to the nature of job I do working with young people in care who have very challenging behaviour. I disclosed this on Tuesday and several days later no risk assessment has been put in place. Unfortunately, I was assaulted by a 16 year old boy. (He did not know I am pregnant). Where do I stand with this? No support was given from an on call manager and I was expected to remain on duty until the morning.

I note from your question that you are pregnant and that you currently work with young people in care who have very challenging behaviour and as a result of this you were recently assaulted by a 16 year old boy at work.

In response to your question the law stipulates that employers have a general duty to safeguard the health and safety of its employees by making a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks that they are exposed to whilst at work. In particular, Regulation 16 of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 notes that any employer who employs women of child-bearing age to do work that could involve risk to the health and safety of a new or expectant mother or her baby from any processes, working conditions or physical, chemical or biological agents, must include an assessment of those risks in their risk assessment.

In light of the above, your workplace risk assessment should already consider what the risks to expectant mothers may be as part of its general workplace risk assessment. In other words, your employer should not wait until a member of staff is pregnant before making an assessment of the potential risks.

I note from your question that you recently notified your employer that you were pregnant, but you do not state whether you notified your employer in writing of this. Once you have notified your employer in writing of your pregnancy, your employer is under an obligation to do all that is reasonable to remove or prevent exposure to any significant risk that has been found, and must give you information about those risks and what action they have taken. In other words, if your employer had identified potential risks in relation to pregnancy as the result of its general risk assessment, it does not have any specific obligation to take action to avoid those risks until you notify them in writing you are pregnant.

Once your employer is notified in writing they are then under an obligation to do all that is reasonable to remove or prevent exposure to any significant risk that they have found, and must give information to you about those identified risks and what action has been undertaken. Unless the risks can be avoided through alternative action, your employer should temporarily alter your working conditions or hours of work, if it would avoid those risks and is reasonable to do so.
If it is not reasonable to alter your work conditions or hours, or if the risk cannot be avoided, your employer must offer you suitable alternative work. The terms and conditions applicable for you performing the work should not be substantially less favourable to you than your present terms and conditions. If there is no suitable alternative work available, or you reasonably refuse to do it, then your employer must suspend you for as long as is needed to avoid any risks.

I would therefore advise you to inform your employer in writing of your pregnancy as soon as is possible if you have not already done so. Should your employer fail to undertake a required risk assessment or to act on its findings then this may amount to pregnancy and maternity discrimination. You could submit a claim to the employment tribunal within three months of the discriminatory act and please note that you will be required to follow the Acas pre-conciliation procedures before submitting a claim.

If you would like some further advice regarding any of the points discussed above then please contact Tracey Guest on 0161 975 3823.

*Helen Frankland assisted with this answer.

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