Pregnancy in the workplace is something that can be mismanaged at times, with employers not being fully aware of how to manage an employee’s pregnancy outside of offering them their entitled maternity leave. Failing to make reasonable adjustments to an employees work environment both pre and post pregnancy and failing to fulfil an employee’s rights can lead to discrimination and health and safety claims and could land your company in hot water.
In order to circumvent any claims or discrimination in the workplace, it is important that you are well equipped as an employer to support employees throughout their pregnancy and offer aid and support in their return to work. The first step in this process is putting together a detailed maternity policy and equal opportunities policy, many employees may be aware of their maternity leave rights but might not know that they actually have the right to carry over any untaken holiday where their maternity leave stretches over two separate leave years. Making your employees fully aware of their rights and ensuring that policies are communicated clearly allows you to be consistent in handling this process within your business. Meet with the employee regularly during their pregnancy, and plan for their maternity leave including how regularly you will keep in touch. It is also important to consider making any changes to an employee’s workplace during pregnancy, prior to their maternity leave to make the workplace more accommodating to their needs, as a failure to adapt or make changes could well be classed as discrimination and a potential health & safety risk.
Staying in touch throughout an employee’s maternity is vital in helping to manage their return to the workplace. Keeping regular contact with an employee throughout this period will help you to make any necessary workplace changes to accommodate their return and will also help the employee to still feel valued as a member of your team. Employees can undertake work during their maternity for up to 10 days without it effecting their statutory maternity pay and this is a useful way to keep the employee up to date with the business. Upon an employee’s return to work you should aim to offer as much support to help ease them back into their role and get them back up to speed. If the employee is still breastfeeding when they return to work you may need to put in place a risk assessment.
An employee returning from maternity leave may request to change to a more flexible working pattern, allowing them more time at home with their family/newborn. Flexible working requests are not uncommon following maternity leave and as an employer it is at your discretion as to whether you want to offer these arrangements or not. It is important to note that refusing these requests could lead to an employee raising an indirect sex discrimination claim due to the disadvantage a full time role can have on a woman with childcare responsibilities. In order to avoid such issues, it would be wise to discuss flexible working options prior to the employees return to help establish how their return to the workplace will pan out, this may impact the employees desire to return to the workplace all together and comply with the Flexible Working Regulations.
If you have any questions, queries or concerns with regards to managing maternity and pregnancy in the workplace, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the HPC team today.
T: 0844 800 5932