Code of good practice on Pregnancy and Afterbirth
5. Protecting the health of pregnant and breast – feeding employees
5.1 Section 26(1) of the BCEA prohibits employers from requiring or permitting a pregnant employee or an employee who is breast-feeding to perform work that is hazardous to the health of the employee or the health of her child. This requires employers who employ women of childbearing age to assess and control risks to the health of pregnant or breast-feeding employees and that of the foetus or child.
5.2 Employers should identify, record and regularly review –
5.2.1 potential risks to pregnant or breast-feeding employees within the workplace;
5.2.2 protective measures and adjustments to working arrangements for pregnant or breast-feeding employees.
5.3 Where appropriate, employers should also maintain a list of employment positions not involving risk to which pregnant or breast-feeding employees could be transferred.2
2. In terms of section 26(2) of the BCEA an employer must offer suitable alternative employment to an employee during pregnancy if her work poses a danger to her health or safety or that of her child or if the employee is engaged in night work (between 18:00 and 06:00, unless it is not practicable to do so. Alternative employment must be on terms that are no less favourable than the employee’s ordinary terms and conditions of employment.
5.4 employers should inform employees about hazards to pregnant and breast feeding employees and of the importance of immediate notification of pregnancy.
5.5 Workplace policies should encourage women employees to inform employers of their pregnancy as early as possible to ensure that the employer is able to identify and assess risks and take appropriate preventive measures.
5.6 The employer should keep a record of every notification of pregnancy.
5.7 When an employee notifies an employer that she is pregnant her situation in the workplace should be evaluated. The evaluation should include –
5.7.1 an examination of the employee’s physical condition by a qualified medical professional;
5.7.2the employee’s job,
5.7.3workplace practices and potential workplace exposures that may affect the employee.
5.8 If the evaluation reveals that there is a risk to the health or safety of the pregnant employee or the foetus, the employer must –
5.8.1 inform the employee of the risk;
5.8.2 after consulting the employee and her representative, if any, determine what steps should be taken to prevent the exposure of the employee to the risk by adjusting the employee’s working conditions.
5.9 The employee should be given appropriate training in the hazards and the preventive measures taken.
5.10 If there is any uncertainty or concern about whether an employee’s workstation or working conditions should be adjusted, it may be appropriate in certain circumstances to consult an occupational health practitioner. If appropriate adjustments cannot be made, the employee should be transferred to an alternative position in accordance with section 26(2) of the BCEA.
5.11 Employers must keep the risk assessment for expectant or new mothers under regular review. The possibility of damage to the health of the foetus may vary during the different stages of pregnancy. There are also different risks to consider for workers who are breast-feeding.
5.12 Arrangements should be made for pregnant and breast-feeding employees to be able to attend antenatal and postnatal clinics as required during pregnancy and after birth.
5.13 Arrangements should be made for employees who are breast-feeding to have breaks of 30 minutes twice per day for breast-feeding or expressing milk each working day for the first six months of the child’s life.
5.14 Where there is an occupational health service at a workplace, appropriate records should be kept of pregnancies and the outcome of pregnancies, including any complications in the condition of the employee or child.