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Agency workers and health and safety risk assessments when you're pregnant

This advice applies to England

What's a health and safety risk assessment?

Employers must carry out health and safety risk assessments for everyone working on their premises, including agency workers. The assessment will also look at any specific risks for people who are pregnant. They usually cover things such as your working conditions and exposure to dangerous substances. Minor risks, such as exposure to coughs and colds are not counted as a hazard.

After 12 weeks in the same job the organisation you’re working for has to do an individual pregnancy risk assessment. They should discuss the findings of the risk assessment with you and not make any changes without your consent.

If the organisation you're working for sends you back to the agency saying that you can't work there on health and safety grounds, you should ask them for the reasons and a copy of the risk assessments. Check if it looks like there’s a good reason to stop you working - if there isn’t, this could be discrimination.

If there’s an immediate risk to health and safety, it may be reasonable to suspend you for a short period so they can:

  • do a risk assessment 

  • make any adjustments so that it’s safe for you to work

Confirm you're willing to work

When you know you're pregnant you should write to your agency and the organisation you're working for. Tell them you're pregnant and ready and willing to work. You can also ask for changes to be made because of your pregnancy. For example, this could be to ask for a chair if you have to stand for long periods of time.

Whether these changes will be made depends on:

  • what they are
  • how easy it would be for the organisation to make them
  • how long you are expected to work on that job

If you can't continue with your job, does the agency have to find alternative work for you?

Once you have 12 weeks in a job, your agency has a duty to find you alternative work if you can't finish the job due to health and safety risks. If you can't stay in your job because you can't reasonably avoid the health and safety risks, the organisation you're working for should tell the agency. The agency should then find you alternative work. You must be paid the same amount for the new work as you were earning in the job you had to leave.

If the agency can't find suitable alternative work for you, they must pay you for the rest of the time you were due to work. 

You won't be paid if you refuse an offer of suitable alternative work and have no good reason for doing so.

If you don’t have 12 weeks in the job, you don’t have the right to be found alternative work, or be paid, unless you’re also an employee of the agency.

What if the organisation you're working for uses health and safety risks as an excuse to discriminate against you because you're pregnant?

They may use health and safety risks as an excuse to end your job. This isn't discrimination if there's a genuine reason why you can't do your job. However, using health and safety risks as an excuse to get rid of you is discrimination. You may be able to make a claim if the organisation:

  • moves you to another job without a good health and safety reason
  • uses minor risks as an excuse to say they don’t want you to work for them
  • refuses to make reasonable adjustments to your job to make it safe for you

If you think that you may have been discriminated against because you're pregnant, you could try to resolve the matter informally by writing to the agency, the organisation you're working for or both depending on who has allegedly discriminated against you.

You should do this in writing so that you have a record of it. If this doesn't work, or you want to make a more formal complaint, you could write a letter of grievance. In both cases, you should set out why you think you may have been discriminated against and what you would like to be done about it.

If this doesn't work, you could make a claim to an employment tribunal. You must start the claim within 3 months less 1 day of the date of the act of discrimination you're complaining about. You can find out more about starting an employment tribunal claim. You should talk to an adviser for help with this.

More information

Agency workers and pregnancy

For other basic employment rights, see Agency workers – what you need to know.

For new employment rights, see Additional rights for agency workers.

Other useful information

You can also find advice on your rights as an agency worker on the TUC website.

You can also find advice on your rights as an agency worker on the Acas website.

You can find information for pregnant women on the Maternity Action website.

You can find information about risk assessments for pregnant women on the HSE website

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