Yes – and protection has been extended to cover qualifying agency workers (those with 12 weeks’ service) since October 2011 under the Agency Workers Regulations 2011. Protection applying to pregnant women and new mothers is as follows:
- Where there are women of childbearing age in the workforce, employers must ensure that any risk assessment takes account of how hazards might affect their health and safety (Regulation 16 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999). This includes exposure to any chemical agent, work process or working situation that might damage the woman or her baby. Employers must take action to control or remove the hazard.
- Where a risk to an employee or qualifying agency worker who is a new or expectant mother cannot be avoided, the employer must change the woman's working conditions or hours of work.
If this is not reasonable, or would fail to remove the risk, the employer must suspend the woman from work for as long as necessary on full pay.
- The employer should consult with the woman and her GP on any proposed changes. It would be sex discrimination to force a change of duties or a maternity suspension on a new or expectant mother where the risk is low and does not require this (New Southern Railway Limited v Quinn  IRLR 266).
Visit the HSE website for more advice on health and safety protection for new and expectant mothers.