There are a number of pieces of legislation which provide protection for pregnant and breastfeeding women at work.
1. Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000
Any employee who is or who could in the future be a new or expectant mother is protected under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000.
Under this legislation employers are required to risk assess all their employees and take reasonably practical measures to control those risks. In the case of an expectant or new mother:
Where the work is of a kind which could involve risk, by reason of her condition, to the health and safety of a new or expectant mother, or to that of her baby, from any processes or working conditions, or physical, biological or chemical agents, including those specified in Annexes 1 and 11 of Council Directive 92/85/EEC  on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding
(16 1b of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000)
It is the responsibility of the female employee to notify the employer in writing that she is pregnant, has given birth within the previous six months, or is breastfeeding. At that stage the employer must conduct a risk assessment taking into consideration any advice from the employee’s midwife or GP. If risks are identified the employer must take steps to remove or reduce the risk. If that is not possible then the employer must offer alternatives, eg change her working hours, offer alternative work at the same wage or suspend her from work on paid leave as long as necessary. The Health and Safety Executive has produced a chart to explain the procedure, which is available here.
The Health and Safety Executive has also produced two documents in support of new and expectant mothers at work
A. A guide for new and expectant mothers who work
According to this guide it is the duty of the employer to provide somewhere for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to rest.
HSE recommends to employers that it is good practice to provide a private, healthy and safe environment for nursing mothers to express and store milk (but this is not a legal requirement). It is not suitable to use toilets for this purpose)
B. New and expectant mothers at work: a guide for health professionals
This guide advises employers what they can do to minimise workplace health risks to pregnant and breastfeeding workers.
The Health and Safety Executive in Northern Ireland stands over any supportive information included in these documents.
2. The Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996
According to this order if a woman’s normal work is no longer suitable when she is pregnant or breastfeeding, her employer has a duty to offer her suitable and appropriate alternative work if possible. Where it is not possible, the employee may be suspended from work on maternity grounds and has a right to be paid remuneration while she is so suspended.
Where an employer has available suitable alternative work for an employee, the employee has a right to be offered to be provided with the alternative work before being suspended from work on maternity grounds.
3. Sex Discrimination Act 1975
Under the Sex Discrimination Act it is seen automatically as sex discrimination if there is a breach of health and safety with regard to new and expectant mothers. This is supported in Northern Ireland under the Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 1976.
4. Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1993
This regulation requires employers to provide suitable facilities for pregnant or breastfeeding workers.
Suitable facilities shall be provided for any person at work who is a pregnant woman or nursing woman or nursing mother to rest.
Having it all: a woman’s guide to combining breastfeeding and work. Maternity Alliance, London.
Breastfeeding and work: facing the management challenge. An employer’s guide to law and good practice. Maternity Alliance, London.
Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland
83 Ladas Drive
Belfast BT6 9FR
Tel: 028 90243249
Labour Relations Agency
Tel: 028 90321442
7 - 9 Shaftesbury Square
Tel: 028 90 500600