Everything you need to know about pregnancy, work and returning to the office after baby
The lead up to labour and birth isn’t just about decorating the nursery and working out a birth plan. If you are pregnant and currently in paid employment, it is also extremely important to be informed about your maternity rights. Becoming knowledgeable about your country of residence and company’s policies regarding pregnancy and maternity leave will empower you to make confident, informed choices. Here’s the key points to help you navigate through what can sometimes be a complex process…
- Decide on a date to tell your employer that you are expecting. While you don’t have to let your company know the minute you find out you are pregnant, you may legally be required to inform your employer that you are expecting by a certain date in your pregnancy. For example in the UK, you must tell your employer about your pregnancy no later than 15 weeks before your baby is due.
- If you are suffering from pregnancy symptoms that are affecting you severely or causing you to take days off sick before you officially reveal the news, you might want to confidentially confide in a senior employee or a HR team member so that you have support at work when you’re feeling ill.
- It is extremely important that you are up to date with government guidelines to maternity rights. Every country has a different policy and this can even vary from state to state or province to province. Your government should have an official website detailing all the information you need to know.
Points to be aware of include:
- Whether you meet the regulations to qualify for maternity leave (paid or unpaid).
- The amount of maternity leave (paid or unpaid) to which you are entitled. For example, in the U.S. theFamily and Medical Leave Act of 1993 includes a provision mandating 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually for mothers of newborn or newly adopted children, while in Australia the main carer receives 18 weeks paid maternity leave funded by the government.
- Any forms that you are required to fill out and hand in to your employer (and cut-off dates for these)
- Your employee rights that protect you against discrimination, an unsafe work environment when pregnant or changes to your contract or working situation that you have not authorised
- How many weeks maternity leave are you allowed to take before the birth of your baby and after the birth of your baby (many countries also require you to take a compulsory amount of time off after the birth of your baby)
- Whether your partner is entitled to paternity or parental leave and how this can be shared with maternity leave
- Whether you qualify for any government tax benefits while pregnant or after giving birth
- Your company will have their own individual policy regarding maternity leave. Read through your contract thoroughly and ensure you are familiar with all of the conditions. Some companies only offer maternity leave pay as per the government allowance while others have a maternity or paternity leave scheme or benefits that extend beyond the standard government maternity pay.
- Depending on where you live, you may be entitled to time off work to attend prenatal appointments or they may need to be taken as annual leave or leave without pay (this differs from country to country). Plan ahead and email your manager or team any dates for upcoming scans or check-ups so that your colleagues are aware of your absence in advance.
- Your company may carry out an assessment to ensure that you are not in danger of any risk to your health and safety or that of your baby at your workplace.This is not often a legal requirement in most countries so if you feel that you are in a situation that poses a risk to your health of you or your baby, let your company know as soon as possible so they can take action.
- Consider how much time you are planning to take off from work and let your employer know what date you would like your maternity leave to start.
- Tie up any loose ends before departing for maternity leave. Things to consider include annual leave, performance reviews, setting guidelines in place for keeping in touch, how your position will be covered while you are on maternity leave and even whether you would like to come back into the office to introduce your new baby to your team.
- Lastly, good luck! Enjoy this special time bonding with your baby.
Words by Amanda Woodward-Brown