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I have just found out that I am pregnant with my second child. I work nights as a support worker on my own. With my daughter I had to move onto days as the gentleman I supported was prone to violence. This time round that is not the case. The people I support suffer from dementia and epilepsy and require occasional support when moving, but require two people in any event. I need to stay on nights for childcare reasons. Also last time working days meant I worked more hours, did more manual work and was on my feet a lot more. I also lost around £200 a month due to no longer receiving my night enhancement payments. Can work legally make me work days?
I understand that you work nights as a Support Worker and that you need to remain on this working pattern for childcare reasons. I understand that when you were pregnant with your first child you had to work days as the gentleman you were supporting was prone to violence. I understand that you do not want to move onto days for several reasons including childcare, the fact that last time this meant that you worked more hours, did more manual work and were on your feet a lot more and also due to the fact that last time you worked days you lost around £200 per month due to no longer receiving night time enhancement payments. You asked whether or not your employer can legally make you work days.
Your employer has no right to change your contractual working arrangements (including your hours) without your consent. However, all employers are also under a duty to protect the health and safety of their employees. There are special duties that apply in respect of new or expectant mothers. The law requires employers to carry out a risk assessment and identify potential risks to you and/or your unborn child. Furthermore, your employer is under an obligation to alter your working conditions or hours of work to avoid any significant risk to you. Once your employer has been notified that you are pregnant, it is under an obligation to do all that is reasonable to remove or prevent exposure to any significant risk and must give information to you about the risk and what action has been taken. Unless the risk can be avoided through other action, your employer must temporarily alter your working conditions or hours if this is reasonable and would avoid the risk.
Your employer may well have identified your current working arrangements as being a risk to you or your unborn child. Therefore, it is under a legal obligation to remove any risks identified. This may well mean temporarily adjusting your duties or hours or offering you suitable alternative work if any is available. As a last resort and if it is not practicable to remove or reduce any risks or find suitable alternative work for you, you may be suspended from your duties on full pay in order to protect your health and safety and that of your unborn child.
Your employer should meet with you to discuss any risks that it has identified. You should then be given the opportunity to discuss any such risks with your employer and to come up with a way forward which is acceptable to both you and your employer. For now, if your employer has not suggested any such changes to your working pattern, and you are not concerned about any particular risks, my advice would be to remain quiet about this and not mention anything to your employer. If your employer does suggest any changes to your current working arrangements, I would advise you to insist on a meeting to discuss this. During the meeting, you should make your concerns clear and try to come up with an acceptable solution and way of working going forward. Bear in mind that your employer has a legal obligation to protect your health and safety and that of your unborn child. If you are unable to agree a way forward with your employer, I would suggest you take legal advice on next steps, which is likely to include submitting a formal grievance.
If you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact Tracey Guest on 0161 672 1431. 7
*Helen Frankland assisted in answering this question.