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How to plan for pregnant workers

When in charge of managing employees at work there are many factors that can cause a fluctuating workforce including holiday, illness and pregnancy. However, recent reports have revealed that this temporary absence is forced to be permanent for many pregnant workers. Maria Miller, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee revealed that around 54,000 expecting mothers felt that they had ‘no choice but to leave their work because of concerns about the safety of their child or pregnancy discrimination’, calling for better workplace protections to be put in place for UK women in their recent parliamentary report, Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination.

This report outlined various suggestions for a change in policy for UK employers, including:

“Employers should be required to undertake an individual risk assessment when they are informed that a woman who works for them is pregnant, has given birth in the past six months, or is breastfeeding…Such a requirement would help employers to provide a safe working environment and would not be a great burden.”

Other matters discussed in the report also include redundancy regulations, the laws for casual, agency and zero hour contract pregnant workers, as well as the need for improved access to information.

As a HR professional, it is important to take steps to implement a fair maternity policy as this matter continues to be discussed in parliament. Here are some tips for how to plan for pregnant workers:

Communicate effectively

While most employees will be aware of your company’s procedures and their basic rights during pregnancy, it is important to engage in honest and open conversation with any expecting mother within your workforce, communicating your company’s maternity policies clearly. Doing this will make sure that she has a good knowledge and understanding of all of her rights and how she can use them.

Avoid unfair dismissal

Many workers on maternity leave will understand that their position will be covered by temporary staff while they are away, but it is within their rights to be able to return to their position, or another suitable role, once their maternity period is over. Choosing to keep on the covering staff as a permanent employee, in place of the pregnant worker, is automatically classed as unfair dismissal.

Implement a flexible working policy

A policy for pregnant employees extends well beyond the maternity leave stages, and should consider the circumstances faced by new mothers once the child is born. To help them manage both their professional and personal responsibilities, introducing flexible working could lead to happier staff and a maternity policy that is beneficial for both management and employees.

What is your current maternity policy? Do you allow flexible working for new mothers in your workforce? Let us know in our comments below.