Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Main risks to pregnant and breastfeeding workers
There may be particular risks in the working environment for pregnant or breastfeeding workers. Known or suspected risk factors are set out in the regulations for pregnant and breastfeeding workers (AFS 2007:5).
The regulations apply as soon as an employee has informed her employer of her pregnancy.
The presence of a risk factor in the working environment does not mean that it always presents a risk. It is the actual exposure that is decisive. It may be necessary to obtain expert assistance from occupational health care, occupational or environmental medical clinics or other forms of medical or occupational expertise when assessing risks. When assessing the risk of infection, infection prevention doctors should be contacted. It is important not to delay the investigation.
Factors that may pose risks in the working environment to pregnant and breastfeeding workers
On our subject pages you can read the factors that may pose risks to pregnant and breastfeeding workers.
Biological substances may pose risks. Infections other than rubella and toxoplasma also need to be considered.
Working conditions which may or have led to mental fatigue, severe psychological stress, violence, intimidation or abusive discrimination may present particular risks for pregnant workers. Find out more on our pages on these topics.
Additional factors that may pose risks are:
- ionising and non-ionising radiation;
- chemical substances, in particular carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive or organ toxicants, mercury and mercury compounds, cytostatics, carbon monoxide and chemicals absorbed through the skin;
- certain processes in which carcinogens are produced;
- underground mining work.
For the occupational health and safety factors mentioned above, rules have been set out in our regulations. Pregnant and breastfeeding workers can in most cases benefit from a safe working environment through strict compliance with these health and safety rules. Our rules aim to ensure that the working environment is good enough to enable everyone to work without risk of being injured or becoming ill: women and men, old and young — and pregnant women.
Some chemical substances and other factors may be more harmful to the foetus than to the mother. Therefore, certain work involving hazardous exposure for pregnant women is prohibited by special regulations.
Prohibited work can be found in the regulations on pregnant and breastfeeding workers (AFS 2007:5). Read more under Lead Work (Section 8). Lead can be stored in the bone, so pre-pregnancy exposure may have an impact on the risk.
Other provisions relating to hazardous work for pregnant women
There are several other provisions relevant to pregnant and breastfeeding workers who work with specific tasks.
For activities involving ionising radiation, special rules apply to pregnant workers and workers who are breastfeeding.
See Chapter 4, Section 7-11, Radiation Protection Act (2018:396). Pregnant workers have the right to be relocated in such a way as to minimise the radiation dose.
Night work is not normally considered to present an increased risk during pregnancy. However, in the case of continuous periods of night work with simultaneous and tangible physical and/or psychological stress, where the worker does not have sufficient opportunities for rest breaks, certain risks of pregnancy disorders cannot be excluded. If a medical certificate shows that the work is harmful, the pregnant woman in question may not undertake night work. Relocation to daytime work must take place where possible.
The employer is responsible for carrying out an individual risk assessment
Employers are responsible for carrying out an individual risk assessment of the working environment if one or more of the known or suspected risk factors listed in the regulations on pregnant and breastfeeding workers (AFS 2007:5) exist at the place of work. The risk assessment must be made as soon as the employee has informed you of her pregnancy.
Risk assessments are part of the systematic work environment management (AFS 2001:1) for which you are responsible. When you are then faced with the task of carrying out an individual risk assessment, you already have knowledge of the health and safety aspects of pregnancy risks.
If you need, you may have recourse to expert assistance from occupational health care, a professional medical clinic or other medical or occupational expertise in the assessment.
Prevention will be carried out in three stages. If you conclude that it is not possible to avoid risks in the work environment or to allow the woman in question to perform other tasks, the pregnant worker cannot continue to work. You must then document the reasons why you have not been able to remove risks in the working environment or have not given the woman other tasks.
The question of compensation to women in this form of necessary leave is governed by the General Insurance Act. The local health insurance fund decides whether a pregnancy allowance may be granted. If the woman is investigated by experts from occupational health care or occupational and environmental medical clinics, you should fill in the documentation.
Read more information on the risks in the work environment to be investigated and assessed under the main risks above. It also refers to work that is prohibited for pregnant workers.
Preventive measures to keep pregnant women at work
Many studies show that employment during pregnancy has a positive impact on health. It is therefore important that women can remain in work for as long as possible during pregnancy. Prevention is carried out in three stages.
Step 1: Changes in the work environment
The employer must, as a matter of priority, make changes in the working environment in order to put an end to harmful exposure. These may include measures to combat noise and other stress factors, the installation of lifting aids, replacement of a hazardous substance with a less hazardous substance, measures against air pollution, modification or exclusion of certain operations for pregnant women. Each workplace needs to find solutions tailored to the current situation in order to create a safe working environment.
Step 2: Relocation
If it is not possible to make changes to end harmful exposure, the employer shall offer a transfer to risk-free work.
Step 3: Leave
If the employer cannot make changes in the working environment or give the pregnant person other tasks, the woman may not remain at work for as long as the risk persists.
The question of compensation for this form of leave is governed by the National Insurance Act. The local health insurance fund decides whether a pregnancy allowance may be granted.
The employer must document the reasons why it was not possible to make changes to the working environment or to assign other tasks to the pregnant woman. The employer must also continuously examine the possibilities for making improvements to the working environment, and also make use of all opportunities for relocation. This is to enable the woman in question to return to work.
Last updated 2020-12-30