Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP) affects 70-80% of pregnant women. However, according to the charity Pregnancy Sickness Support, while employers are sympathetic to women suffering from NVP, “some are unaware of the wide spectrum of NVP and the significant impact that severe NVP and HG [hyperemesis gravidarum] can have on a woman’s ability to carry out simple daily tasks, let alone carry out her usual paid employment”.
So, how can employers support pregnant employees who often feel they have to suffer in silence during these challenging times?
Ensure all policies and training are up-to-date
As with all pregnancy announcements, a review of current policies is advised to ensure they are up-to-date and relevant to your current workforce. Offering inclusivity for all is essential and these must be readily available to your workforce. However, having pregnancy and maternity-friendly policies in place is simply not enough to ensure a pregnancy-inclusive workplace; rather leadership must lead by example by putting these values into practice. Leadership training to ensure all pregnant employees receive the best possible support is therefore also strongly advised.
Reassure all employees
It may seem like a given that there is job security for pregnant employees (especially as they are protected under the Equality Act), but time and time again there have been cases of neglect or unjust redundancies for those who are pregnant or on maternity leave. Your employees need reassurance that pregnancy and maternity is not a barrier to career progression nor a risk to their position in the organisation.
Help pregnant employees speak out
Often termed the ‘Silent Trimester’, the first 12 weeks of pregnancy can be an anxious time for pregnant employees, particularly while attempting to conceal sickness, coupled with feelings of fear and/or complete elation. Help overcome this perceived need to suffer alone by encouraging your employee to speak out whenever they feel comfortable doing so. Cultivating a culture that values the psychological safety of its employees and has a leadership team that fosters this will, in turn, empower pregnant employees to speak out. Similarly, providing support networks also enables your employee to talk openly and honestly about their needs. For more help on how to support pregnancy disclose, read our latest blog here.
Make adjustments in your workplace
30% of pregnant women in paid employment need time off due to NVP, so ensuring your workplace is able to cater for this change in routine is essential. Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is an episodic condition with frequent periods of recovery and relapse. It is therefore important that pregnant employees do not feel pressured to return to work too soon. A buddy system will allow for any last-minute absences and also provide your pregnant employee with the support they need.
Do not forget about your pregnant employee! Maintaining contact throughout all periods of absence will allow them to feel part of the team and supported throughout. Continued contact, open and honest conversations will also highlight the best form of return to work.
Consider a phased return to work if appropriate
Employers should remain aware that there is a significant risk of HG relapse if a pregnant employee returns to normal activities before they are physically ready or able to do so. Phased returns can help monitor the needs of your pregnant employee and ensure they are able to fulfil the usual demands of their role gradually.
We at Tell Jane are able to offer pregnancy at work training 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.