As a manager, preparing for pregnancy in the workplace can seem like a big challenge or maybe it isn’t even on your radar but it does mean having to make changes and preparations ahead of time. It means having to rethink your work environment, reassess how jobs are done, the office layout, delegation of tasks and training in new, and often temporary staff. This is just the beginning when it comes to how a pregnancy can change the office dynamic so if it seems like such a huge job how do so many businesses prepare?
Three quarters of women between the ages of 20 and 44 are active in the labour market. So a large percentage of the workforce will become pregnant during their careers, yet workplaces are still not equipped to deal with something that happens everyday and is a natural part of working life. There are some simple things that you can do as an employer to ensure that both expecting mother and your office are prepared.
To ensure the safety of an expecting mother in the workplace your office should undergo a pregnancy risk assessment, this will help to ensure that your office space is suitable for an expecting mother and that the tasks and activities of that employee are as safe as possible. Another great thing about these risk assessments is that they open up discussion and often help both employee and employer to understand the experience and challenges faced in the situation.
Have a discussion.
Now that you both have a better understanding of the risks and physical issues involved, you are in a better position to discuss any concerns or expectations that either of you may have. Maybe you have been through a pregnancy yourself and you know what to expect, maybe you have never and will never be in that situation and haven’t a clue where to start. Either way having an open discussion with your staff about their concerns, fears and expectations can help to create a better awareness and preparedness for what’s to come.
It may sound like an obvious one, but a recent survey of more than 300 pregnant women found 80% reporting that their employer doesn’t offer opportunities to work remotely and 63% felt their employer doesn’t have favourable conditions for working mothers. It is important to be aware of the how pregnancy can affect both a woman’s position in the workplace and the perception of her position. Even if you have the best maternity policies in the business, pregnancy can bring with it a lot of worries. How will the time off affect their position in the future? Will they be taken seriously if they cannot perform certain tasks or need to delegate some of their workload? Will it be frowned upon if they have to leave for doctors appointments? Will they get passed up for promotions now or in the future? These are just some of the very many work related concerns not to mention personal and health concerns that can contribute to the emotional welfare of a colleague. The best way you can alleviate some of the stress is to remain supportive and understanding throughout the process.
There is little you can plan for when it comes to pregnancy so flexibility is the best thing you can have. Work will get done, maybe not in the way or when you are used to but offering flexibility can help alleviate some of the stress and pressure that would otherwise interfere with productivity. A survey into productivity in the workplace found that 72 % of global business owners reported there to be a “direct link between flexible working practices and improved productivity” and suggests that “flexible working owes its popularity not only to enthusiastic employees who are better able to manage work/life pressures and feel more motivated.” It’s no wonder companies like Google are rumoured to have nap rooms and games rooms and flexible spaces for work. In fact it wouldn’t be a bad idea to treat everyone in the office that way….just saying…nap time for everyone!
Pregnancy in the workplace is no small thing and is considered a fundamental human rights issue.Women who are pregnant or have recently given birth are also protected under maternity protection and unfair dismissals legislation. As an employer it is your responsibility to protect and respect these rights, failure to do so can result in heavy fines and/or prosecution. For more information on the rights and responsibilities for both employees and employers with regards to pregnancy in the workplace visit www.hsa.ie If you would like to book your pregnancy risk assessment feel free to contact a member of our team here.