Pregnancy in the workplace is a greatly discussed subject. While measures have been taken throughout the years for equality in the workplace, there are still some obstacles women face when it comes to certain areas. As a woman, it is not only important to know your rights but you also need to be prepared for the things that are not mention in the “law”.
When it comes to pregnancy, many things can be subliminal and taboo. An employer, for example cannot fire a woman because she’s pregnant. However, some employers will try to find discrete ways to hide their discrimination. Some women have reported having been fired because of “the dangerous environment” when in reality, the boss simply did not know how to handle the situation. An employer cannot refuse you a job because you are pregnant except if the job itself will expose you to chemicals that could be harmful for you and the baby. But some recruiters tend to ask illegal questions during interviews.
If you are planning on getting pregnant, here are some ways you can plan ahead so it does not negatively impact your career.
Plan ahead/know your rights
Pregnancies are not always planned. However, if you think you might try to get pregnant in the near future, it is important that you plan ahead. You can start by talking to someone you trust in the HR department to tell them about your plans.
Get informed on your rights as a pregnant employee, how many sick days you are allowed to take during the year and the benefits that are offered for this case. If a company has a policy in place that, for employees with special needs (no matter what these needs may be), the company is also expected to provide reasonable accommodations to a pregnant woman who requires special attention (light duty, longer breaks) during her pregnancy. Make sure you know what your rights are ahead of time.
The United States is the only developed country that does not mandate some sort of paid maternity leave. While the Family and Medical Leave Act does require some employers to offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to female and male employees for the birth and care of a newborn child, about42% of American workers are not covered by this law.
Respect your obligations
If you want to be treated fairly, it is also important to respect your obligations. There are times when your health might not allow you to work as much as you usually do. However, make sure you identify colleagues who will be able to help out. Be honest about how you feel. Do not hesitate to ask to push back deadlines if you realize you will not be able to finish the work.
Before you can say goodbye to work, you need to plan your maternity leave. About 4 weeks in advance, tell your boss the precise day you expect to stop working and a approximate date that you’ll be back. This will help your team prepare for your leave and see who can take on some of your responsibilities. Let them know how they can be able to contact you (and the time of the day they can contact you of course) in order to communicate important information with you. Truth is, you will have some days where you will probably be able to take care of certain things from home.
Manage your symptoms at work
You could ask to be placed not too far from the bathroom if this is something you need to use often during your pregnancy.
Remember everybody knows what symptoms comes with being pregnant. It is not a bad thing to prepare your bosses and colleagues. However, it is up to you to communicate clearly so that everybody knows what to expect (even to expect the unexpected).
Ann-Sophie Ovile, Writer, Short Stints