The importance of having new and expectant mothers DSE workstation assessments

woman carrying her baby and working on a laptop

Being pregnant or recently having had a baby is both beautifully natural and scarily stressful. Whilst there’s a pressure on women to ‘glow’ or ‘blossom’ during and after pregnancy, hormonal changes, body composition changes, a growing bump, the act of giving birth, breastfeeding and the physical and mental changes that come with pregnancy and childbirth can be overwhelming.


Added to these stresses and worries, can be a woman’s working conditions. As we mentioned in our article on the health issues that can arise from pregnancy and their impact on working with display screen equipment (or DSE), pregnancy and childbirth causes physical and emotional changes.

So, these changes need to be considered and allowed for when thinking about employee health and safety at work. But looking after the wellbeing of pregnant employees shouldn’t be something extra that we do, it should be something that’s naturally taken care of. All employers have a legal obligation to provide clean, safe working conditions for their staff. But, to bolster trust, loyalty and good productivity, you also have a moral obligation to be responsible for all staff at all stages of their lives and careers.

Working with a PC, laptop or any other display screen equipment during pregnancy can lead to the development of several health issues. These include back pain and discomfort, pain in the neck and shoulders and swelling in the wrists and ankles due to increased water retention in the soft tissues.

These issues are related to the way the body changes to accommodate a growing baby. But in addition to these physical changes, hormonal changes also mean increased fatigue and mood changes.

None of these issues, physical or emotional, should be ignored when assessing a workstation. Nor should they be ignored when a new mother returns to work after her pregnancy, as she may still be experiencing physical and emotional changes in the months and years after giving birth.

As an employer you’re not legally obliged to carry out a specific risk assessment after being notified that an employee is pregnant. But you do have the legal requirement to capture hazards in a general risk assessment that should apply to all staff.

If any employee or group of employees (in this case, women of childbearing age who may become pregnant – and remember, you also have a duty to have a diverse workforce) are identified as those who might be harmed, then steps must be taken to minimise risk. You will need to know how any apparent risks might cause harm to new or expectant mothers and how you’ll minimise them.

You may also choose to carry out an additional assessment to make an informed decision on any further action that may need to be taken.


It’s a crucial time for all new and expectant mothers to get quality advice from their employer regarding posture and any hazards associated with their type of work. This can be done as part of a New and Expectant Mother Risk Assessment, and if the nature of work is solely desk based, a separate DSE Assessment is recommended.


The latter is focused primarily on the pregnancy related hazards for desk based tasks and includes an assessment on the following hazards:

– Physical – ergonomics, posture, movement, manual handling, radiation, vibration, noise

– Biological – infectious diseases

– Chemical – toxins, mercury, cytotoxic drugs, pesticides, lead

– Working conditions – facilities including restrooms, stress, temperature, lone working, violence, wearing PPE, working with visual display units


For more information, The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999; regulation 3(1) and regulation 16, is the piece of the legislation that covers this. We can also help by providing assessments and advice. 

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