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Health and Safety During Pregnancy and on Return to Work

If you're pregnant, have given birth in the last six months or are breastfeeding, your employer must make sure that the kind of work you do and your working conditions will not put your health or your baby's health at risk.

Last updated: 02 May 2023

Employer's responsibilities for health and safety at work 

All employers must carry out a workplace risk assessment, including identifying any risks to pregnant women or new mothers, and do all that is reasonable to remove or reduce any risks. 

If you want your employer to take action to protect your health and safety, you must notify your employer in writing that you are pregnant or have given birth in the last six months or are breastfeeding.

Your employer must consider the risks and take reasonable action to alter your working conditions or hours of work, such as providing somewhere to sit, extra breaks or ensuring that you do not do any heavy lifting. You may have the right to be offered a suitable alternative job or to be suspended on full pay for health and safety reasons if carrying out your role would put you at risk. 

For example, if you’re pregnant you may need to ask for reasonable action to assist with moving heavy instruments, to be seated more appropriately in the pit, or for additional breaks in long working days. 

Breastfeeding on return to work

Your employer must protect your health and safety while you are breastfeeding by making reasonable changes to your working conditions or hours of work, such as allowing you to work shorter shifts, having extra breaks to express milk, or avoiding night work or overnight stays.

Policy for breastfeeding at workplace

The MU has designed a sample policy for breastfeeding at work for anyone working in the music sector. As a musician, you can share the sample policy with your employer as a suggestion. If you an employer in music sector, you can use this sample policy as a basis of developing a policy in your organisation.

Sample policy for breastfeeding at work

Flexible working requests

All employees have the right to ask for flexible work. If you want to change your hours, days or place of work, you must have been employed by your employer for at least 26 weeks by the time you make your request and not made a request for flexible work in the last twelve months.

Parents who are adopting a child have the same rights to ask for flexible work.

Any changes to your contract of employment are usually permanent, but you and your employer can agree to a temporary change in order to accommodate a period of breastfeeding. Ask your employer to confirm any changes in writing and to state how long they will last.

Discrimination at work based on pregnancy related sickness

You are protected from unfair dismissal and discrimination if you are off sick during pregnancy. Any pregnancy related sickness absence must be recorded separately from other sickness absence.

If your employer stops offering you work because of pregnancy related sickness or sickness related to a long-term condition, you should seek advice as this may be pregnancy discrimination or disability discrimination.

Employers must not treat pregnant employees unfairly for taking time off for pregnancy related sickness.

If you are a musician and a member of the MU, you can talk about your health and safety during pregnancy and on return to work in more detail with Musicians' Union.

Contact the MU

The guidance pack on maternity, parental and adoption workplace rights was designed in conjunction with Maternity Action to provide musicians with information about your rights at work as set out under the Equality Act 2010.

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