Navigating your workplace can become a completely different experience when you are expecting.
Knowing what rights you have around pregnancy and work is so important to make sure you are keeping yourself and your baby safe. Our top tips will help you make your working day a little bit easier, and our guide to the laws around work for a pregnant woman will help you get to grips with what your employer can and can't ask of you.
From asking for extra breaks to navigating switching roles if your job isn't safe enough, we are here to help you feel empowered and ready to face the world of pregnant work. Why not check out [what a gender reveal party actually is] or let us help you with our advice on the [worst weeks for morning sickness] too?
Working While Pregnant: Laws
A lot of the time, we just don't know the legal rights we have during pregnancy, which means that we don't know whether what we are experiencing in our employment is normal, or even legal. Learning your rights during pregnancy is incredibly important because it means you are able to fight for them and ensure you protect yourself and your baby.
Over 40 years ago a law was passed by Congress with the primary goal to protect pregnant women in the workplace, called the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This law made it illegal to take pregnancy into account when hiring or firing or choosing who to offer a promotion in a company of more than 15 employees. Today, pregnant women still have the same job protection, though a lot of pregnant women, unfortunately, do experience discrimination that's a little bit harder to pinpoint.
While pregnant, your boss cannot deny you a promotion on the basis that you will be less dedicated to your work if you have a child. It is also illegal for a supervisor or employer to change your role while you're pregnant to something that is less desirable to you without your consent, even if it's out of so-called concern. Across the country, local rights for pregnancy at work do vary, so it's important for you to research what your area covers.
The law requires an employer to offer workers with disabilities and pregnant women similar accommodations, but the actual accommodations that your employer offers will vary depending on the job that you do. It can be a tricky conversation to navigate because it's quite an open requirement. In general, you should be able to come to an agreement that both you and your boss are happy with for work during your pregnancy.
The Family and Medical Leave Act requires any employers with over 50 employees to offer unpaid leave to workers who are pregnant, but this only covers you if you've worked for the company for one year or more and clocked over 1,250 hours in the last 12 months, which means a lot of pregnant employees aren't able to take advantage of it.
On average, women only take 10 weeks off from work for maternity leave. You are actually allowed up to 12 working weeks in the year period surrounding the birth of your baby to care for them, and your employer is legally obligated to protect your job. They aren't actually required to pay you for your maternity leave.
It is up to you to decide when you want to take your maternity leave, and some women choose to work right up until their due date. Depending on your workplace and how easy you find working while pregnant, you can decide how early you want to stop. In terms of the hours you work during your pregnancy, you should be able to work up to 40 hours per week as long as your job allows.
Working While Pregnant: Our Tips
With all the different laws and regulations around pregnancy and work, things can get a little bit overwhelming, to say the least. That's why we've put together a list of our favorite quick and handy tips to help you stay healthy in your job and navigate your workplace and boss.
1. Unfortunately three out of four of us experience nausea during pregnancy, so it's a good idea to prepare for any morning sickness during work. Pack two washcloths in your bag to soothe you when you feel unwell, and clean yourself up if the inevitable happens.
2. It's also a good idea to keep breath mints in constant supply, and a toothbrush and paste handy in case you do need to freshen up at all.
3. Ginger can stop nausea in its tracks, so packing some ginger tea or ginger ale might be a lifesaver for those queasy early morning meetings.
4. Think about what you are going to need throughout your pregnancy. You might feel like you're able to carry on your job with just a little extra allowance for appointments with obstetricians and gynecologists, and more frequent breaks, which is a simple enough request. But maybe your job doesn't feel appropriate during pregnancy, so it's a good idea to think about how you could still offer your company support from a different role that keeps you safe.
5. It's important for you to keep you and your baby from going hungry, so that means stocking up on healthy and nutritious snacks at your desk. Make sure there's always something to nibble on that will make you feel good, so you're less likely to end up reaching for unhealthy snacks.
6. Try to stay off your feet as much as possible, but if your job does require you to be walking around, make sure you have comfortable shoes that won't add to any aches and pains.
7. Keep a footstool handy to raise your feet while you're sitting down. This will reduce any extra swelling you might experience during pregnancy.
8. Schedule any appointments with obstetricians and gynecologists before work or during the morning, as you'll probably be feeling tired in the afternoon. Keep a note of your schedule and try to get medical letters when you can, just in case your employer decides they want to see proof of what you're doing.
9. It should be obvious, but make sure you avoid any heavy lifting while you're pregnant, even at the beginning. It can be tempting for women to try to prove to other workers that pregnancy isn't limiting them, but this is not your duty. Heavy lifting can be very dangerous for your unborn child, so it's best not to risk it. If your job requires you to do strenuous physical tasks, you should ask for a work reassignment before week 20 of your pregnancy.
10. Some jobs just aren't workable for pregnant women, and it is important for you to make sure you aren't putting extra strain on yourself and your baby by trying to do work that isn't safe. Jobs that involve a lot of standing like cooking, waitressing, and nursing could be dangerous for your baby, and could increase your risk of a premature birth and high blood pressure.
11. Speak to your human resources team about your rights, if you think your employer is being unfair. They should be there to support you and will have up-to-date information on the legalities of your workplace.
12. Whilst there is no set rule on the maximum hours a pregnant woman can work, or how often a pregnant woman should take breaks, you will need to take more regular breaks while pregnant. It is a good idea to discuss what this will look like with your employer so that you are both on the same page. Especially if you are experiencing nausea with your pregnancy, knowing that your employer is supporting you will take a bit of the stress away.
13. When you're ready to let everyone in your workplace know that you're pregnant, make sure you tell your boss first. Schedule a meeting so you can break the news and decide when is best to tell the rest of the team together.
14. Boost your energy when you're feeling tired out by doing five-minute meditations to keep you grounded and energized.
15. When you are pregnant, your normal working days are going to feel extra exhausting, so it is important that you make rest and relaxation a priority outside of your working hours. Take long baths, have early nights, and try to avoid any stressful activities whenever you can.
16. Consider changing your working hours if your employer is open to the idea. Avoiding busy traffic or trains could make your commute so much less stressful and easier to manage during pregnancy.
17. If you're a casual worker, have a conversation with your boss about what working hours will suit your needs best. If they know, then they are more likely to try to be accommodating to you.
18. Try to find people you can talk to at work that understand your situation. Women who already have kids can be a great support because they know how you're feeling at each stage of the process.
19. Take control of your work responsibilities, and try to delegate as much as possible to make things a little bit less stressful, and stop anything getting out of hand and forcing you to rush around.
If you found this article helpful, then why not take a look at our guide to [vaginal change during pregnancy] or [all about what midwives do]?
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