Last reviewed 20 May 2019
Pregnancy can be an exciting but challenging time for your employees and it is vital that you know how best to support them in this situation, writes Croner consultant Carol Smith.
1. Train managers on how to respond to the pregnancy
Employees should feel able to approach management about their pregnancy and all managers should therefore be understanding and non-judgmental. They should also be prepared to provide appropriate support in difficult, sensitive situations such as a miscarriage. See our comprehensive topic New and Expectant Mothers in Early Years Provisions and Schools.
2. Create a maternity leave policy
A strong, easily accessible policy can help your employees understand and be aware of their rights and entitlements during their maternity alongside any additional assistance that your company offers. It can also specify any obligations that are placed upon them, such as providing adequate notification to you. A model maternity leave policy is provided in the Model Staff Handbook.
3. Clearly confirm maternity leave arrangements
Make sure that both managers and the employee are fully aware of when the maternity leave is set to begin and when it will end and what the situation is regarding pay. It is advisable to hold a meeting with the employee on the day before their leave commences in order to ensure there is no confusion over the return date and to allow an opportunity for any further questions. Use our Employee Handout: Maternity Rights.
4. Conduct a risk assessment
Workplace risk assessments should already have considered any risks to female employees who are pregnant. That said, it is highly advisable to review the existing risk assessment to check if any new risks have arisen. If this shows that the employee would be placed at further risk, the organisation can identify what adjustments may be necessary. Alternatively, it may be an option to temporarily move the employee to a different job, or even place her on medical suspension at full pay until maternity leave begins. Our guide How to Protect New or Expectant Mothers is a good place to start.
5. Accommodate all antenatal appointments
Pregnant employees are entitled to attend antenatal appointments that have been recommended by a doctor or appropriate health official and it is important that your employees go to them. While she can be encouraged to make appointments at times which are more convenient to the company, permission to attend may not be withheld.
6. Make sure the employee does not suffer discrimination
A pregnant employee has the legal right not to be subjected to any form of discrimination from management or colleagues as a result of her condition. If this is found to have taken place, you should implement your usual disciplinary procedures up to and including dismissal. You should also reaffirm that your company has a zero tolerance approach to all forms of bullying.
7. Offer access to an EAP
An Employee Assistance Programme can offer further support and reassurance to a pregnant employee if she has any personal worries surrounding her condition. This can help ensure that the employee has an additional area of support outside of her direct manager if there are issues that she does not wish to discuss with them.
8. Hold a pre-maternity leave meeting
This should be held just before the employee’s maternity leave commences in order to confirm everything and address any queries she may have. It can also allow for a discussion on who will be best to look after the employee’s duties in her absence and any outstanding work.
9. Offer KIT days
Female employees on maternity leave can work up to 10 “keeping in touch” (KIT) days without losing their entitlement to maternity pay. This can be a useful way for them to keep up to date with key company developments and break up the time away from work that they have taken. It is up to both you and your employee how many of these days, if any, are worked and she cannot be forced to take one.
10. Keep her informed of all developments
A lot can happen in a year and your employee should be kept fully up to date with any changes that could affect her or her role. This includes promotion opportunities for positions that will not be filled until after her eventual return from work. An employee can therefore be reassured that her maternity will not affect potential development opportunities.