Tommy's pregnancy at work

Supporting your pregnant employee

As well as being a very exciting time, pregnancy can also bring challenges and concerns for you and your employee.
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She may worry about her health and that of her baby, or about how she will be treated at work. You may worry about the impact that her pregnancy will have on the company.

Your issues and needs are different, but by establishing good, clear lines of communication, her pregnancy should not create any difficulties for you.

Your support can help to make your employee’s pregnancy relaxed rather than stressful, which can have a significant impact on her health and that of her baby.

In turn, your company will benefit from a contented employee who is committed to her workplace and more likely to return after maternity leave, thus saving time and expense in recruiting and training new staff.

How should I react to the news?

When your employee first tells you she’s pregnant, you may initially have concerns about the effect on everyone’s workload, especially if you’re a small team. Try not to show this, though, and offer congratulations if appropriate – some women are ambivalent about pregnancy. This will ensure a positive start to your relationship during her pregnancy.

Emotional support

While pregnancy is not an illness, it is a time of major physical and emotional change. Stress can increase the incidence of high blood pressure as well as the risk of problems such as miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight and other problems with the baby’s development.

As well as fulfilling your legal obligations, such as undertaking a risk assessment, it’s important to talk with your employee about how she’s coping at work and ask her how you can help support her.

Concerns your employee might have

Your employee may feel anxious about your reaction to her pregnancy and her position at work. Or she may feel uneasy about the pregnancy itself. Try to reassure her.

She may also worry about her colleagues and whether they will feel resentful about any changes to her workload due to her pregnancy. Communication with your whole team, including your pregnant employee, is key to promoting harmony and ensuring that everyone feels listened to and supported.

If your employee has a specific medical condition that needs close monitoring during pregnancy, this may cause her anxiety. As well as worrying about her baby’s health, she may need extra antenatal check-ups and might be anxious about taking extra time off work. It’s important to reassure her and treat anything she tells you confidentially.

Find time to talk

Try to be available to talk with your employee regularly and let her know she can come to you if she has any concerns in between your scheduled meetings. If she’s feeling under pressure, you can deal with this together before the stress becomes overwhelming.

Practical support

Everyone is different and every pregnancy is different. However, there are some issues that are common in pregnancy and if you can be supportive and work with your employee, the coming months are likely to be more pleasant for her and more productive for the company.

As your employee’s pregnancy progresses, her body will change in more ways than simply the size of her bump. Knowing about these changes will help you understand why it’s not a good idea for pregnant employees to work an extra-long day or operate heavy machinery in sweltering heat. 

What you can do

Try to be as flexible as possible about your employee’s workload. She may be able to take on different tasks that are more manageable at this time. Meanwhile, you may need to ask another employee to cover jobs that are inadvisable during pregnancy, such as climbing ladders or travelling abroad for conferences.

Take any concerns she has about her health and safety needs at work seriously. If she gives her permission, make sure the first-aid representative is aware that she’s pregnant and they know of any potential health issues.

If your employee becomes ill at work, find her a quiet place to rest and try to make her comfortable. If necessary, arrange for transport home or to hospital, and let her partner or a friend know what’s happening.

Even small adjustments at work, such as access to fresh drinking water or a footstool under her desk, can reduce stress and discomfort and make a huge difference to her wellbeing.

Meeting essential needs at work 

Make sure your employee has:

  • quick access to a loo
  • access to fresh air and breaks when necessary
  • an easy way to get drinks and snacks
  • replacement uniforms, if she wears them, to take account of her changing shape.

These small things may seem unimportant, but can make a big difference to a pregnant woman!

Common pregnancy symptoms and how you can help

As your employee’s pregnancy develops, she will experience a range of physical and emotional changes. Chat with her regularly so you’re aware of any discomfort she’s having at work. There may be simple steps you can take to offer support and minimise problems.

Tiredness

Nausea and vomiting are very common in pregnancy and can occur at any time of day. If possible, it would help to temporarily adjust your employee’s hours so that she isn’t travelling or working when her sickness is at its worst.

Pregnancy sickness

Nausea and vomiting are very common in pregnancy and can occur at any time of day. If possible, it would help to temporarily adjust your employee’s hours so that she isn’t travelling or working when her sickness is at its worst. 

Weak bladder

It’s common to need the loo more frequently in pregnancy and you can help by making sure your pregnant employees have easy access to a toilet, especially if they work off site.

Mood swings

Changing moods and anxiety affect lots of pregnant women and can be caused by the physical and emotional changes that are taking place. Ensure you chat regularly with your employee to see how she’s coping. If she’s very stressed, see whether her duties or working hours can be adjusted.

Backache and varicose veins

These often become worse as pregnancy progresses and it may help your employee to have extra breaks, or a stool or chair if her job involves lots of standing. She’ll need somewhere she can sit and put her feet up during breaks.

Dizziness and fainting

Regular breaks and access to fresh air, snacks and drinks can help prevent dizziness. If your employee feels dizzy or faints, sit her down with her head between her knees and call the person responsible for first aid, if you have one.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

This causes pain and numbness in the fingers and some pregnant women are prone to it. Employees who use their fingers and hands repetitively, such as typists or production line workers, are more likely to be affected. If your employee has carpal tunnel syndrome, she’ll need to take frequent breaks to rest her hands and you may need to consider giving her alternative work for a while.

Swollen ankles

This can become more of a problem as pregnancy progresses. Try to be as flexible as possible about your employee’s working arrangements to prevent or alleviate swelling. If she spends most of the day standing, provide a stool to sit on or change her duties so she can be seated some of the time. If she works sitting down, provide a footstool and make sure she can get up and walk around frequently.