A pregnancy can be a wonderful and exciting time for a woman, but as an employer, what does it mean for your business? How should you proceed when an employee announces a pregnancy? Here are some tips to help ensure your expectant employee is comfortable in the workplace.
Know the law
Laws such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Family Medical Leave Act protect pregnant women, making it illegal to fire or otherwise discriminate against a woman due to her pregnancy. In addition, other state and local laws may apply. Make sure you’re familiar with the law and don’t do anything, even unintentionally, that would treat a pregnant woman unfairly. Also familiarize yourself with maternity-leave laws, as these can also vary by state, so both you and your employee know how much time she can take off.
Ask what you will need for the business while your employee is on maternity leave. Can the position be left vacant until she returns? Can other staff take over her duties? Would it be best to hire a temp to fill her job? Be sure to consider the employee’s needs as well, including the fact that she’ll be concerned about the health of both herself and her baby. If the employee is in a high-stress position or works long hours, discuss with her how, if at all, she would like her role to change during pregnancy, and keep in mind the impact stress can have on health. A 2009 study found that stress on a mother in the early months of pregnancy can affect the development of the baby’s brain, as well as increase the chance of preterm labor and low birth weight.
Paid maternity leave is becoming a hot topic, with more and more companies offering it. Consider the benefits of not just recovery time after childbirth, but also the importance of a mother and child having time to bond before she returns to work. As Fast Company points out in the article, “How Small Businesses Can Offer Paid Maternity Leave,” paid maternity leave is a small and infrequent business expense that could actually attract and retain quality employees. It is a high commodity as only 12 percent of non-government employees have access to the benefit.
This article was written by Janelle Sheetz for CBS Small Business Pulse