How HR Can Support Pregnant Employees in the Workplace

February 24, 20201:51 pm1878 views
How HR Can Support Pregnant Employees in the Workplace
How HR Can Support Pregnant Employees in the Workplace

Cecilia has been promoted to a senior level after years of working at ABC company. Three months after being signed in the new role, she finds out that she is pregnant. While she is happily expecting her first child, she also has concerns regarding the stress brought by the new demanding role. When she is six-month pregnant, Cecilia asks for paid maternity leave but surprisingly, the manager encourages her to quit her job altogether – fearing that her long absence will disrupt the company’s productivity.

At some point, some believe that having pregnant employees at work can decrease business production. But is terminating the said employees the right decision to take? Maria Danaher told SHRM that terminating or moving pregnant employees to a lower-paid job is considered as a discriminatory act, which can put employers to a legal problem. Therefore, it is important for HR and line managers to be aware of these rules when handling an expectant working mother.  

See also: Developing HR Programs to Support Working Parents

Reviewing company and state Employment Act on maternity policy 

One of the first things HR leaders can do is to review employment acts regarding maternity policy. Each country might give a different warning in dealing with pregnant employees. 

For example, Singapore’s MOM cited that employers cannot terminate pregnant employees without sufficient cause, or retrenches pregnant employees if the said employees have worked for the employer for 3 months. Employers must pay maternity benefits to employees while continuing to pay an employee’s salary throughout maternity leave as if the said employee had been working without a break. In addition, employers should not ask the pregnant employee to work during the first 4 weeks of her confinement. For maternity leave protection and benefits can be reviewed under Part III of the Child Development Co-Savings Act and Part IX of the Employment Act

In Malaysia, pregnant employees are protected under the Malaysia Employment Act 1955 where the employees are entitled to maternity leave for a period of not less than 60 consecutive days in respect of each confinement and shall be entitled to receive from her employer allowance to be calculated or prescribed in respect of eligible period. As per new amendments on 1st April 2012, reviewed Azlan Mohamad, if female employees deliver her child on weeks 24 either dead or alive, maternity protection will be accorded to her. 

As for Indonesian employers, Labour Law regulated that pregnant employees are entitled to one and a half months (90 days) maternity leave before giving birth and another one and a half months (90 days) after giving birth. This, however, can be extended if the said employees receive a letter from an obstetrician stating that they require further leave days, which can be extended up to 3 months after giving birth. During this period, employers should give full salary (basic salary and fixed allowance) and medical reimbursement during maternity leave. 

In India, pregnant employees are protected under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, which says that women shall be entitled to, and her employer shall be liable for, payment of maternity benefit as the rate of average daily wage for the period of her actual absence immediately preceding and including the day of birth and for the six weeks immediately following that day. This is eligible for pregnant employees who have worked with an employer for not less than one hundred and sixty days in twelve months immediately preceding the date of her expected delivery. 

Building up an open and honest conversation about pregnancy 

After reviewing the state’s law and company’s regulations regarding the case, HR should train line managers about the responsibility of handling pregnant employees. The management should build up an open and honest conversation about the rights and obligations of expectant working mothers. The conversation does not have to be in a formal meeting setting, it could take place in a coffee shop or other spaces that work for both parties. Don’t forget to congratulate employees to make them feel belonged and protected under your leadership. 

Building up an open communication about maternity leave 

Pregnancy will develop, so might the pregnant employee’s need, such as attending antenatal appointments and classes, as recommended by doctors. When the due date gets nearer, employees will start to make decisions around her maternity, including a likely leave date as well as preparing to hand over her workload. Thus, HR and line managers should discuss a leave plan with your pregnant employees. 

Managing communication during maternity leave 

As employees would take at least 90 days of maternity leave, managers should give updated info to the said employees, such as redundancy situation, a reorganisation that would impact her job, the possibility of a pay rise, job opportunity or promotions that she needs to apply for. You should also discuss with her if she would like a phased return to work, what this might look like and how you could both make it work. You can suggest that she use her annual leave to start working a few days a week and build up gradually from there. 

Welcoming the new mom after a long period of leave 

As soon as employees return to work, you should have a chat or a meeting to discuss her return and updates, suggestions, or concerns that either of you might have. Managers or HR can encourage team members to rebuild a new connection with the new working mom. You might also want to ask about any practical needs, for instance, if she is breastfeeding, she might need access to a fridge to be able to store any expressed milk. 

“Best wishes for becoming a mom!!!”

Read also: How HR Dept Can Help Single Parents in the Workforce

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