New and expectant mothers in the Netherlands have special rights with regard to working conditions. They are, among other things, entitled to adjusted rest times and working hours and a room for expressing milk. As an employer, you must inform new and expectant mothers about these rights. You must report the labour risks for pregnant employees in the risk inventory and evaluation (RI&E).
Adjusting working conditions
If an employee tells you they are pregnant, you must tell them about the risks the work can pose for the pregnancy. You have to eliminate these risks by changing the employee’s workplace or working hours, or by giving them different tasks. If this is not possible, they should be exempted from work.
Adjust working hours
You need to adjust the working hours of your pregnant employee during pregnancy and up to 6 months after giving birth. These employees:
- are entitled to more breaks (up to one-eighth of her daily working time)
- should work no more than 10 hours per shift
- should work no more than 50 hours per 4-week period
- should work no more than 45 hours on average per 16-week period
- are not allowed to work night shifts, unless you can prove there is no other option
Rules around tasks and working hours for pregnant or breast-feeding employees can also be found in the Working Conditions Decree.
You need to limit psychological stress for pregnant employees. There are no legal prescriptions on how to reduce psychological stress, other than more breaks during working hours.
You need to limit the physical stress on a pregnant employee. If physical stress is unavoidable, you should limit the load:
- the employee is allowed to lift a maximum of 10 kilos at a time
- as of the 20th week, the employee is allowed to lift a maximum of 5 kilos up to 10 times a day
- from the 30th week, the employee is allowed to lift a maximum of 5 kilos up to 5 times a day
- in the last 3 months of pregnancy, the employee shouldn’t bend or kneel down more than once an hour
Up to 6 months after giving birth, any work involving lifting, carrying, pulling and pushing objects should be slowly built up.
Pregnant employees may not perform tasks under environmental (atmospheric) pressure, such as diving and caisson work or underground mining. Or be subjected to environmental factors, such as:
- vibrations of more than 0.25 m/s2
- ultrasonic sounds over 20 kHz and louder than 110dB
- loud noise louder than 80 db(A) on average or peak above 112 Pa
- any type of radiation.
Working with hazardous substances and micro-organisms
Pregnant employees, as well as those who are trying to get pregnant, and breastfeeding mothers should not be exposed to lead and lead compounds. The same goes for hazardous substances that can harm the DNA of the (unborn) child (such as benzene).
Exposure to the Rubella virus or toxoplasma bacteria (often found in cat faeces) during pregnancy should also be avoided.
Exposure to certain micro-organisms can pose a risk for pregnant or breastfeeding women as well, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has drawn up a list (pdf, in Dutch) of potentially harmful microbes.
Expressing milk at work
For the first 9 months after giving birth, you should give your employee time and opportunity to express milk or breastfeed. They should be able to do so as long and as often as needed (up to one quarter of the working time). You should make a room available for this end that is clean and quiet, and that can be locked from the inside.
If you cannot offer a suitable space, you should allow your employee to feed or express milk at home. Time spent feeding or expressing milk during work counts as working time and should therefore be paid.