Gender Equality

Business exposes pregnant and nursing women to health risks, including reproductive health risks


Women must not be forced to carry out work with a significant risk to their health and safety or that of the child. During pregnancy and nursing, women may be more susceptible to some workplace hazards that can lead to adverse health impacts on them and their babies. There may be different risks to health at each stage of pregnancy, including before and after delivery, and when nursing.


Instances of potential workplace hazards for pregnant women include arduous work involving manual lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling of loads. It may include work involving exposure to biological, chemical or physical substances which represent a reproductive health hazard, or work involving physical strain due to prolonged periods of sitting or standing, extreme temperatures, or vibration.


Women must not be discriminated against on the basis of their pregnancy and are entitled to continue to carry out their job unless prevented from doing so for a medical reason. Employers are responsible for providing all employees with a safe workplace, and so must ensure steps are taken to reduce workplace risks for pregnant and nursing women and their children. Businesses should conduct an assessment to ensure elimination of risk to pregnant and nursing women, which may require adapting her conditions of work or transfer to another position (without loss of pay) if such adaptation is not feasible. A woman is guaranteed the right to return to the same position or an equivalent position, paid at the same rate, at the end of her maternity leave.

Relevant Human Rights Instruments

Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183), Article 3
Recommendation concerning the revision of the Maternity Protection Recommendation, 1952, 2000 (No. 191)



SDG 5.1

Preventing the exposure of pregnant and nursing women to health and reproductive risks will help to achieve SDG 5.1: End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.



SDG 8.8

Businesses that prevent exposure of pregnant and nursing women to health and reproductive risks contribute to SDG 8.8: Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment.