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Practice dilemma: Risk of infection

A pregnant practice nurse is concerned over the risk of infection to her, and her unborn baby, by working in your practice. What should you do?

There are special health and safety duties that apply in respect of expectant mothers.

You are under an obligation first of all to carry out a risk assessment of this nurse’s workplace and her work generally in light of her pregnancy. This assessment will help to identify any risks caused by her work to either her, or her unborn baby’s, health and safety.

Where a risk to health and safety is identified then you are required to alter the nurse’s working conditions in order to avoid any significant risk. Where changes cannot be made, or where it is not reasonable to make the changes required, then you should look at whether there is any suitable alternative work for her to do where the risks to health and safety are avoided.

Where an alternative is available then this must be offered on terms ‘not substantially less favourable’ than the role she is currently doing. Where suitable alternative work is not available, or the nurse reasonably refuses it, then the nurse should be suspended from work, with full pay, on health and safety grounds for as long as necessary to avoid the identified risks.

Alison Graham is a healthcare employment lawyer at Veale Wasbrough Vizards

Alison Graham