In a significant move to bolster workplace safety, Finland has introduced a new act focusing on the protection of pregnant employees, those who have recently given birth, and breastfeeding workers. The legislation, which will take effect on April 5, 2024, mandates employers to conduct comprehensive risk assessments to safeguard these employees from occupational hazards.

Replacing the previous Government Decree (603/2015), the new decree (143/2024) broadens the scope of risk assessments, requiring consideration of various factors,

including physical conditions and work-related stress, that could jeopardize pregnancy. It aims to provide a safer working environment by ensuring that potential risks are identified and mitigated effectively.

Employers are now tasked with considering a wider array of risk factors, including noise, non-ionizing radiation, extreme temperatures, and physical stress, among others. Special attention is also given to work conditions like night shifts and exposure to harmful chemicals, which are known to pose risks to pregnant employees and their pregnancies.

The updated legislation also expands its coverage to include breastfeeding employees and those who have recently given birth, ensuring that their unique needs are addressed. While some hazards are specific to pregnancy, the decree acknowledges that certain workplace exposures can affect new mothers and their ability to breastfeed safely.

Key additions to the new decree highlight the need for employers to adapt to changing workplace dynamics and prioritize the health of pregnant employees and their unborn or newborn children. These include a detailed list of chemical factors, enhanced protections against physical stressors, and the inclusion of specific working conditions that could pose risks.

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health has pledged to update its guide on pregnancy and occupational exposure agents to reflect the new regulations. Additionally, the Institute's advisory service stands ready to support occupational health professionals, prenatal clinics, and pregnant employees in navigating these changes.

While the decree focuses primarily on preventing workplace hazards during pregnancy, it is part of a broader effort to address reproductive risks and work-related cancer through forthcoming legislation. This comprehensive approach underscores Finland's commitment to safeguarding employee health across various stages of work and life.