Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978, outlawing discrimination based on pregnancy and childbirth-related medical conditions, and 30 years later, the Americans with Disabilities Act was updated, requiring employers to provide accommodations to pregnant women with certain conditions that could qualify as disabilities. Yay, right? Unfortunately, despite attempts to put laws into place to remove discrimination, between 2010 and 2015 nearly 31,000 charges were filed and in 2017 $15 million in settlements were paid out, all for pregnancy discrimination. On top of this, the research firm National Partnership for Women and Families found that a much larger number of women were denied requests for basic accommodations, such as more frequent breaks and less physically demanding work.
A stunning report by the National Women’s Law Center, in partnership with A Better Balance, shares that 88% of first-time mothers who worked during pregnancy worked into their last two months of pregnancy, and 82% worked into their last month. As much as people love to work, the reality is that women’s income is more likely to be critical to the family. That same report highlights that working women are the primary breadwinners in more than 41% of families, and are co-breadwinners (bringing in 25%-50% of family earnings) in another 23% of families. Low-wage women workers are even more likely to bring in critical income, and more than 72% of single mothers worked in 2011. Women who are being forced out of a job (either overtly or through more subtle exclusionary practices), are being forced out at arguably the worst time of their lives, and for many, that has an impact on their entire family.
Let’s talk about ways we can be empowered to support pregnant women, regardless of our role in the company.
You have budget. You have authority. You have the ultimate responsibility to ensure your employees’ well-being. There is much you can do to ensure that pregnant employees are supported.
It’s okay to say:
Now that you’ve got a sense of how best to support (and not support) pregnant employees we encourage you to put these tips into practice. Do you have a story you’d like to share of what works? We’d love to hear it and share it with others!
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