Supporting pregnant employees: top tips for employers

In this article, we look at how employers can support their pregnant employees, from providing managers with effective training, accommodating employees’ needs, supporting pregnant workers’ mental wellbeing, and managing any stress at work.

4 mins read
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18 Jul, 2024

​As an employer, supporting pregnant employees goes beyond legal obligations - it’s a moral duty.

And by doing so, you contribute to fostering an inclusive company culture where everyone feels valued and respected. While compliance with pregnancy discrimination laws is essential, in this article, we explore the extra steps you can take to ensure pregnant workers feel included, valued, supported, and safe at work.

Provide managers with effective training

How supported employees feel largely comes down to their relationship with their direct manager, therefore it’s essential that all managers are trained effectively with best practice advice on how to support pregnant employees. All employees should feel able to approach their manager about their pregnancy and discuss their needs without feeling judged. Managers should understand the potential symptoms pregnant employees may have and the kinds of needs that may arise throughout the pregnancy, however, these are highly individual so ensure managers discuss symptoms and needs directly with employees.

Supporting your team members through their pregnancy requires a level of emotional support as well as practical, and managers need to be trained on how to deal with sensitive situations, such as a miscarriage. In a survey conducted by pregnancy research charity Tommy’s, 67% felt their manager did want to support them during a miscarriage, stillbirth, or losing their baby shortly after birth, but 69% said they did not actually know what to do to provide that support. This is why it’s so important to provide managers with training in these situations.

Accommodate employees’ needs

You should provide reasonable accommodations during pregnancy, such as ergonomic adjustments, flexible working hours, accessible facilities, and time off for doctor/antenatal appointments.

Some needs can be established during an initial workplace risk assessment as soon as your employee tells you they are pregnant. This assessment would cover whether changes are needed to chairs, desks, and screens, as well as potential health and safety risks in the workplace. However, these should be regularly reviewed as needs may change throughout the pregnancy.

Allow pregnant employees to adjust their work hours to accommodate antenatal appointments, fatigue, or other pregnancy-related needs. You could also consider staggered start and end times, compressed workweeks, or part-time schedules if needed. You should also be flexible with breaks, allowing additional breaks for rest, hydration, and bathroom visits.

It may also be helpful to offer remote work, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy, as remote work reduces commuting stress and provides a more comfortable environment for the employee.

The most important thing is that managers listen to the needs of their pregnant workers, try their best to accommodate them, and review arrangements regularly to ensure they are still effective and required.

Be reasonable with uniform/dress policies

Uniform/dress policies are often put in place to create a sense of unity, collaboration, and teamwork, and promote an inclusive culture. But they can be exclusive if they fail to accommodate the needs of pregnant workers, and beyond that, may be discriminatory.

Employers should ensure that dress codes meet health and safety requirements, particularly for pregnant workers, but should be flexible enough to accommodate changes that may need to be made during the pregnancy. For example, being able to wear comfortable trainers may help with swelling and be more comfortable, as well as loose-fitting clothing.

It is also important that dress codes don’t require pregnant workers to have to pay a lot of money for maternity work clothes, and if there is a required uniform, employers should provide a maternity version.

Conduct regular mental wellbeing check-ins

Staggeringly, one in five women have mental health problems in pregnancy or after birth – depression and anxiety being the most prevalent. While work, in general, does not increase the risks of pregnancy complications, stressful work does increase the risks of miscarriage, preterm labor, preterm birth, low birth weight, and preeclampsia. This is why it’s imperative that employers regularly check in with employees to ensure they are managing workloads, stress, and mental wellbeing.

Schedule extra one-to-ones to check how your employee’s doing, and to see whether they need any adjustments or extra support. Some women may be happy to take on extra responsibility while pregnant, whereas others would prefer to adjust or rebalance their workload to help manage their stress levels. Work-related stress could lead to employees being signed off work, therefore it’s in your best interest to be accommodating.

Remember, supporting pregnant employees isn’t just a legal obligation - it’s a moral imperative that contributes to a healthier, more compassionate workplace.

If you are looking for a talented employee to cover maternity leave, or seeking a permanent employee to join your team, get in touch with one of our specialist consultants today.

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