- Some women find it difficult to work through pregnancy.It is not surprising that women who are pregnant experience significant changes in their bodies, making it difficult for them to manage their daily lives, including work. Some women may experience severe morning sickness, nausea, vomiting, or hyperemesis. Others may have to deal with emotional ups, downs, and other symptoms. Women may experience difficulties or be unable to do their regular work duties due to many physical changes that are associated with pregnancy. It can be especially difficult for women to tell their partner about their pregnancy at an early stage of pregnancy.
Your changing identity
Many women consider their work to be their primary source of identity and purpose. Pregnancy can also challenge these ideas and cause a deep sense of reevaluation.
This information outlines some of the most common issues for women who are going through a pregnancy. It includes understanding your rights and responsibilities as well as how to manage your pregnancy at work.
Your rights as an employee
It is important to inform your employer as soon as you become pregnant and the expected birth date. Your employer must give you at least 10 weeks notice to take maternity leave. This applies whether the leave is paid or unpaid. Your employer will be able to support you throughout your pregnancy and make adjustments if you give this information earlier.
Many women advise their closest friend or manager during their first trimester. The second trimester may be a better time to tell the world. People at work will understand you’re going through a major transition and can help you deal with any issues more effectively. This will increase your support.
Working during pregnancy
You have the opportunity to share your pregnancy news with your employer and start to talk about your needs during pregnancy. Although pregnancy is not considered an illness, pregnant women can still use their sick leave rights if they are affected by any pregnancy-related injury or illness. You may be eligible for pre-natal appointments, or other entitlements from your employer. This may be helpful to you. It is possible that you will need to discuss changes to your work schedule, such as a later start time for mornings that are more difficult, special dietary requirements, changes in break times, or timing of travel requirements.
It is also a good idea to start thinking about how long you will be working during pregnancy. Also, consider whether special arrangements such as work from home, travel minimization, or flexible work hours are possible. Your rights will be clarified if you have a discussion with your employer. Different workplaces may have different arrangements. Your employer may ask for a medical certificate if you intend to continue working after 34 weeks.
All Australian workplaces are prohibited from discriminating against pregnant women. You should not be treated differently due to your pregnancy regarding your employment rights. If your job could expose you or your unborn baby to radiation, heavy lifting, or other chemical exposures, you have the right to seek out a safer working option or lighter duties. You may be required to take No Safe Work Leave if this is not possible. The Fair Work Ombudsman is available for assistance and further information.
In 2014, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), released a review of the experiences of mothers and fathers returning to work after parental leave. Nearly half (49%) reported that mothers had experienced discrimination at work during pregnancy, parental leaves, or upon their return to work. More than 25% of fathers and their partners also reported discrimination at work related to parental leave or return to work. This could include negative comments, loss of opportunities, reduced conditions, redundancy, job loss, and even reductions in wages. Pregnancy discrimination can affect your mental and physical health, earning potential, and living standard. It can also impact your decision to return to work and the workplace. If you are subject to this type of treatment, you have the right to take legal action. You can contact the AHRC via their website for more information and to file a complaint.
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Planning your parental leave
Both men and women should plan for their parental leave.
Planning during pregnancy has been shown to be a key factor in women returning to work after having children.
(Coulson et al., 2012, p. 34)
Both men and women may be thinking about how you plan to transition through parental leave and back to work. These conversations with your employer can help to set expectations. However, you don’t need to have specific plans. You might find your parenting experiences changing your expectations about work.
Tips to transition into maternity leave
There are practical questions to ask about what you will do and what you might need to give over as you approach the start of parental leave. You may be replaced by another person or you may have your job split among other employees. The best way to help you both is to provide a list with contacts and projects or future milestones. This will make it easier for you to transition from one task into the other.
Also, you should make any necessary changes to your contact information, including updating your email and address details during a leave, and the best phone numbers. You may need to decide whether or not you want to keep any of your work equipment (e.g., a tablet, mobile phone or laptop) or to replace them.
To make sure you have the best start possible to your parental leave, prepare yourself, your colleagues, clients, and yourself for the time you will be away. It is possible to show professionalism during this stage, which will pay off later when you are able to handover the role smoothly.
Checklist for working during pregnancy
- Discuss any changes you may need to a working arrangement with your organization .
- Create a plan to hand over responsibilities. Prepare your team and coworkers well.
- Discuss pregnancy discrimination with your employer and seek help if needed.
- Discuss the plans for parental leave , including how you plan to keep in touch while on leave.
- Find out about the benefits, policies, and programs offered by your employer. Employers often have checklists and useful packs.