Many women are forced to disclose their pregnancy to their managers before their friends and family in today’s working culture. Trying to hide morning sickness, worried about the risk of miscarriage, and hiding the excitement of their growing addition can often lead to spilling the beans early.
But then what? Guidance surrounding pregnancy at work is readily available, but ensuring your employees are well cared for, well informed and, ultimately, still feeling they belong (and will belong post-birth) is all part and parcel of leadership. Your pregnant employees are entitled to paid antenatal absences, have the ability to decide when they will begin their maternity leave and, most importantly, are able, and should be, considered as much a part of the team as they have always been.
However, a report published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission claimed 10% of women were discouraged from attending antenatal appointments by their employers, and one in nine of those surveyed had been dismissed, made compulsorily redundant or treated so poorly they had to leave their jobs. Scaled up to the general population, this could mean as many as 54,000 mothers lose their jobs every year.
So, how do we better the treatment of pregnancy in the workplace?
This is an easily achieved and yet easily forgotten task. There will be plenty of time to discuss how work will be covered between now and the start of maternity leave so avoid jumping straight into problem-solving mode.
First, find out about your company’s current pregnancy and maternity policies. Are they up to date? Have they been reviewed in the last 6 months? Are they inclusive for all employees, genders, sexualities and beliefs? If you’re unsure, our seasoned HR professional can help you review your pregnancy and maternity policies. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Have a conversation
This can be an informal chat over a coffee, or a more structured one-to-one, but be sure to remain open and honest; this is also an opportunity for employees to voice any concerns they may have so they can get the support they need.
Put it in writing
Sharing discussion points and agreements in writing is good practice across all areas of business. It avoids confusion further down the line and provides both employer and employee with documentation should any problems arise.
Encourage support in the workforce
This may be the first person to fall pregnant in your team, so be proactive. Set up a buddy system for pregnant employees or simply diarise regular check-ins.
Don’t assume that the pregnancy will interfere with your employee’s performance or job role. Don’t assume how long maternity cover will last. And do not assume their expectations upon return. Have an open and honest conversation to avoid all assumptions and be prepared for these plans to change.
Tell others in the workplace
It is not the manager’s duty to share pregnancy news amongst the team. If you feel others may be affected by the long-term absence once the baby has arrived, create a strategy with the pregnant employee for how to overcome these challenges and when they feel comfortable sharing their news (if at all).
Discount your employees from future promotions and opportunities
Not only is this against the Equality Act 2010, section 18, which prevents all employers from discriminating against those who are pregnant and on maternity leave, this can also hinder the potential growth and development of your entire workforce. The best candidate may be pregnant but they may also be the best person for the role. Demonstrating a level of equality and equity amongst your workforce will also demonstrate a level of support that many look for in an employer.
We at Tell Jane are able to offer pregnancy and policy training workshops to organisations across the UK. If your policies are out of date or if your managers would benefit from training on how to create a pregnancy-inclusive workplace, email us at email@example.com.