In 1981, the Québec government passed a law providing "precautionary leave" or reassignment to other jobs for pregnant workers exposed to a risk for their health or that of their fetus. This measure was much more popular than expected, with about 30% of pregnant workers taking leave in 1987. Uncertainty about what constitutes a risk for pregnancy, conflicts between views of pregnancy as a social or private act, and differing ideas on employers' responsibility for protection of pregnant workers have combined with worries about cost to stimulate debate on this law. Since 1986, there has been pressure on the government to restrict access to precautionary leave. This article describes research designed to answer some of the questions raised during the debate. Data banks of the Health and Safety Commission and responses of 2500 women workers were examined to characterize the jobs of women who did and those who did not take leave. Leave was usually taken by those who worked in sectors traditionally associated with risks, and women who applied for precautionary leave more often reported their working conditions to be difficult. Women taking leave accorded more importance to their maternal and domestic roles, but equal value to their roles in the workplace. The article concludes that the popularity of the measure is not due to laziness or lack of responsibility on the part of women workers, but to poor conditions in women's traditional jobs. It is suggested that more emphasis be placed on improving conditions rather than on early leave from work.