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Managing Pregnancy in the Workplace

It hasn’t quite been a lifetime since I told Katherine and Jason that I was pregnant, but it feels like it! As we all know, pregnancy can feel like a never-ending treadmill, 9 months can feel like 9 years, although whilst I feel I look like an elephant, they (elephants that is!) have it much worse!

Your employees spend a good part of their pregnancy at work so, you will want to ensure they are comfortable and that you all know what to expect during the pregnancy.

The key things you need to know

Most people wait until they have had the 12-week scan before they start telling work.  Once they have told you their news, they will have 4 legal rights:

  • paid time off for antenatal care, they should be given time off to attend and be paid their normal rate of pay
  • maternity leave
  • maternity pay or maternity allowance
  • protection against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal related to their pregnancy

It’s worth bearing in mind that ‘antenatal care’ is not just medical appointments – it can also include antenatal or parenting classes if they’ve been recommended by a doctor or midwife.

The father or pregnant woman’s partner has the right to unpaid time off work to go to 2 antenatal appointments.

Risk assessments

Once they have told you, the type of work you do will determine what type of risk assessment you need to carry out.  In certain industries and certain jobs, it can be considered unsafe to do if you are pregnant and adjustments need to be put in place.  For example, paramedics or firefighters would not respond to emergency calls during their pregnancy and are normally given office-based jobs.  The majority of employees will not need to stop what work they are doing; but it is a good idea for a trained person to review the job with the employee in case there are elements that need changing and document this.

It would be good to consider any lifting that they currently do at work, if they come in to contact with any chemicals, if they do any lone working, driving, sitting or standing for long periods without adequate breaks.  Most importantly, the employee should be sharing any advice their midwife tells them, so you can support them.

Future changes on the horizon

Just this month (January 2019), the government has started discussions regarding extending legal protection against redundancy for pregnant women for a period of six months after they return to work.

The protections could also be extended to others, including men, who return from adoption or shared parental leave.

Theresa May said: “It’s unacceptable that too many parents still encounter difficulties when returning to work.”

Business Department research found that one in nine women had been fired or made redundant when they return to work after having a child or were treated so badly that they felt forced out of their job.

The Simple Take is: be clear during the maternity leave if you are experiencing difficulties as a business. Should the need for redundancies or a restructure arise, don’t make decisions based on the maternity leave but do seek advice on how to protect your business and ensure you can handle any changes safely.

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