Protection of Pregnant Women at Work in Switzerland: Implementation and Experiences of Maternity Protection Legislation
Objectives. Like most industrialized countries, Switzerland has introduced legislation to protect the health of pregnant workers and their unborn children from workplace hazards. This study aims to assess legislation’s degree of implementation in the French-speaking part of Switzerland and understand the barriers to and resources supporting its implementation.
Methods. Data were collected using mixed methods: (1) an online questionnaire send to 333 gynecologist-obstetricians (GOs) and 637 midwives; (2) exploratory semi-structured interviews with 5 workers who had had a pregnancy in the last 5 years.
Results. Questionnaire response rates were 32% for GOs and 54% for midwives. Data showed that several aspects of the implementation of maternity protection policies could be improved. Where patients encounter workplace hazards, GOs and midwives estimated that they only received a risk assessment from the employer in about 5% and 2% of cases, respectively. Preventive leave is underprescribed: 32% of GOs reported that they “often” or “always” prescribed preventive leave in cases involving occupational hazards; 58% of GOs reported that they “often” or “always” prescribed sick leave instead.
Interviews with workers identified several barriers to the implementation of protective policies in workplaces: a lack of information about protective measures and pregnancy rights; organizational problems triggered by job and schedule adjustments; and discrepancies between some safety measures and their personal needs.
Conclusions. Results demonstrate the need to improve the implementation and appropriateness of maternity protection legislation in Switzerland. More research is required to identify the factors affecting its implementation.
KeywordsPregnancy Occupational exposure Maternity protection legislation
This work is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant number 162713), by Canton Vaud’s Public Health Service and by a research fund belonging to the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland (HES-SO).
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