There is no legal obligation for the employee to tell their employer until 15 weeks before the due date. However, some employers state in their contracts that the employee must tell them as soon as it is confirmed. The nature of equine veterinary work means that employees often need to inform employers as soon as possible (e.g. avoiding x-ray radiation), which can pose a dilemma for some and so the matter should be dealt with sensitively.
SCHEDULE A MEETING
• Request a relaxed meeting with the employee to discuss how the practice intends to provide support for them and how they can help the transition for the practice.
• Signpost them to sources of available information, e.g. practice policies, BEVA MumsVet, ACAS.org.uk, gov.uk, citizensadvice.org.uk.
• Offer to go through any relevant contract details at this, or in a subsequent, meeting.
• Discuss informing other members of staff. Remember that this is at the discretion of the employee, so respect her wishes.
• Make a written record of the meeting and share it with the employee.
CARRY OUT A RISK ASSESSMENT
Identify and discuss the risks for this pregnant member of staff at the first opportunity. Some risks might be common to any pregnant employees, others may be unique to the individual’s role or circumstances. Templates/examples, such as the Risk Assessment document, may be a good starting point but should not be used blindly.
Some risk areas that are likely to be different for pregnant employees would include:
• Working hours: Consider any increased risks associated with long days or missed food breaks.
• Rest breaks: Consider any increased risks associated with long periods of standing or sitting. First and third trimesters are notoriously the most tiring.
• On call: Discuss the risks associated with the OOH rota and consider a contingency plan should any changes be required at short notice.
• Lone working: Assess whether there are any increased procedural risks associated with working alone and whether they might viably be mitigated by support from a technician/nurse or student.
• Manual handling: Hormone changes during pregnancy increase the risk of musculoskeletal injury and lifting heavy items can pose an increased risk to the pregnancy. These risks should not be underestimated and assessment and mitigations should be carefully considered.
• Toxic chemicals: The use of those chemicals that are particularly hazardous to pregnant personnel, e.g. sarcoid creams, griseofulvin, steroids, alpha-2 agonists, prostaglandins, hormones (oxytocin), scintigraphy radionuclides, inhaled anaesthetics (isoflurane, halothane, desflurane), should be discussed and considered. Exposure limits set by the practice usually already allow for the possible exposure of pregnant workers but it may be an appropriate time to check that precautions are observed.
• Radiation: X-ray (conventional and CT), gamma scintigraphy and brachytherapy doses should be below the permitted limit (1mSV) for a foetus but it may be an appropriate time to check that working practices meet requirements. See “Working Safely with Ionising Radiation - Guidelines for expectant or breastfeeding mothers” (INDG334) on www.beva.org.uk/Home/Careers/Mumsvet/Guidance for the employee. Some pregnant women prefer to avoid all forms of radiation throughout pregnancy (and sometimes breastfeeding) and this choice should be supported.
A copy of the completed risk assessment form should be given to the employee and a copy kept by the practice.
Ensure that secretaries/office staff are aware of the plan in relation to booking appointments so that any work that needs to be avoided is redirected to alternative members of the team. The redirection of such work should also be discussed with other colleagues as necessary, for instance other veterinary surgeons so that they are aware this work is being redirected to them.