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How Workplaces Can Support Expectant Parents

By Stevie Howard:

As an expectant parent myself, I know firsthand both the joys and struggles of dealing with pregnancy – especially one that doesn’t go quite as planned. Don’t get me wrong, I’m usually all smiles as I enjoy my growing baby, but that doesn’t mean pregnancy is easy, nor is it something employers should take lightly. The strain it puts on your body is noticeable and can make work difficult, especially during those last few months. It’s important to understand that your employee (even if their SO is the pregnant one!) may have to have some accommodations throughout this amazing journey.

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Personally, I am blessed to work in a flexible environment. My pregnancy has been a little extra stressful and difficult to deal with (still waiting on that pregnancy glow…), but I know that my employers have my back. It’s a big stress reliever knowing that even when the bad stuff happens, I won’t be out of a job. Flexibility has made all the difference. For instance, I have been working from home for the past two months. Also, since I’m not allowed to drive, my husband has been able to take time off work to take me to appointments. Workplace flexibility such as this and a few simple adjustments can easily be made to help make your expectant parent a little more comfortable. This is not only a kindness but necessary to following the law as well.

What is Required

By law, there are certain things that employers must do to help support expectant parents. The FMLA helps to protect these rights for any employee who is a part of a larger company and requires employers to allow for up to 12 weeks of maternity or paternity leave(paid or unpaid). Note that this also applies if the employee is an adoptive parent as well.

Additionally, pregnancies are to be treated as a disability within the workplace. Obviously, pregnancy is not an actual “disability” (shoutout to all the weight-lifting moms to be!), but categorizing it as such works to safeguard employees from being fired for the simple fact of being pregnant, while also making sure they receive the benefits they deserve. On the other hand, this also does not give employers the right to force their employee to leave work or adjust workloads – this would only be done on an “as needed” basis.

A Little Extra

Even with these legal obligations, many employers miss the idea that just because you don’t fire someone or you let them take the full 12 weeks of leave, doesn’t mean you are doing all that you can. This really is the bare minimum. Instead, step up and make sure to stay in contact with your expectant parent. Are they getting more tired throughout the day? Do they need to come in later to accommodate for doctor appointments? It’s little things like this that can help your employee continue to feel valued instead of like a burden.

Here are other things you can do to help make them feel more comfortable:

  • Limit their standing time
  • Allow for more frequent (but short) breaks
  • Allow them to sit away from their desk to be more comfortable
  • Be open with them and create a sense of acceptance
  • Have extra snacks on hand (okay, this one might just be for me…)
  • Adjust their hours if needed
  • Let them work from home a few days a week (if applicable)
  • Celebrate their milestones with them to help keep them engaged and feeling like a part of the team

And lastly, just show a sense of understanding. Sometimes emergencies happen and things don’t always go so smoothly. Make sure your employee knows that you are there to help them through this process in any way you can. By simply showing your support, you are building a connection and making them feel not only like they belong, but that they are a valued part of your team. Just be kind.