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Pregnant workers at risk

The EAT has clarified its ruling on the case of O'Neill v Buckinghamshire County Council to explain that an employer is not under a general obligation to carry out a risk assessment for a pregnant employee, but must do so if certain circumstances exist.

In this case, the employee was a school teacher who had informed her employer that she was pregnant. The employee alleged sex discrimination on the grounds that a risk assessment had not been completed.

Having regard to the wording of the Pregnant Workers Directive and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the EAT accepted the employer's argument that in order for the employer to be under a duty to conduct a risk assessment:
• the employee must have notified the employer that she is pregnant in writing;
• the work is of a kind which could involve a risk of harm or danger to the health and safety of a new/expectant mother or her baby; and
• the risk arises from either processes, working conditions or physical, biological or chemical agents in the workplace.

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