Pregnancy in the workplace and the maternity leave that follows is one of a working mother’s greatest concerns, yet it can sometimes be overlooked as such an important time to their employers. Whether the time is simply overlooked, needs are misunderstood, or even discrimination occurs, far too many employers are missing the mark. Not only are employers causing unnecessary frustration for soon-to-be and new moms and putting their organization at risk for legal issues, but they are also passing up a significant opportunity to show employees that they are important and valued.
Help your employees make the most of this time in their lives and careers and consequently prepare yourself as an employer by focusing your efforts on these three things.
First and foremost, it’s vital that your organization does not exhibit any discriminatory behavior when employing women who are pregnant and new mothers. Discrimination of this type typically doesn’t occur outright in a black-and-white manner, but instead occurs when employers almost subconsciously allow that knowledge to affect hiring and promotion decisions. Aside from the moral and legal implications, this behavior also signifies to the rest of your workforce that this type of discrimination is okay. When you draw a line of zero tolerance for discrimination, employees will be much more likely to follow suit.
While it can be hard not to focus on only the time that an employee will be off work and the duty modifications that may be necessary during pregnancy, it’s extremely shortsighted to do so. When you have an employee who provides positive contributions, the temporary difficulty of handling the workload without them is a small sacrifice to make. By asking them to handle pregnancy and motherhood in an unsupportive work environment, you could potentially be ruining a positive employer/employee relationship or preventing one from being established.
Any mother can tell you that just because maternity leave is over doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing. In fact, the first few weeks and even months back at work after giving birth is one of the most trying times of a woman’s life. The expectations and stresses of home and work are amplified by their new responsibility and all that comes along with welcoming a new child. Let your employees know that the support doesn’t end when maternity leave does. Be considerate of the need for flexible schedules, work-from-home options, easing back into work, and having time to take care of lactation needs. Going the extra mile during this time can encourage loyalty that you just can’t buy.
How do you plan to up your organization’s support during pregnancy, maternity leave, and heading back to work? Let us know in the comments section below.
Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.