11 steps to take when managing a pregnant employee

By Portner Press on June 14th, 2019
  1. Industrial Instruments
  2. Fair Work Act

If your employee becomes pregnant, you have additional legal obligations under the Fair Work Act that you must comply with.

You must ensure that you:

  • inform the employee of her rights;
  • consult the employee about changes to her employment;
  • manage the health and safety risks to the employee and the unborn baby;
  • enable the employee to transfer to a safe job or to take no safe job leave, if necessary;
  • allow the employee to take leave for pregnancy-related illness; and
  • ensure the employee is free from discrimination.

Informing employees of their rights

You are required to give new employees a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement either before they start or as soon as practicable after they start employment.

While you must give all new employees the Fair Work Information Statement, it is particularly important for employees who are pregnant (or who may become pregnant) because the statement sets out the additional entitlements these employees can claim which include:

  • requests for flexible work arrangements;
  • 12 months’ unpaid parental leave; and
  • a request for an additional 12 months’ unpaid parental leave.

Transfer to a safe job

You may be obligated to transfer your employee from their current role to an appropriate ‘safe job’ before they commence their parental leave.

A safe job is a job that a pregnant employee may perform on a temporary basis because it is no longer safe for them to continue working in their original role. For example, this may be due to hazards associated with the position, such as heavy lifting or exposure to chemicals.

It is perfectly valid for you to request that the employee provide evidence from their medical practitioner to show they are fit for work, but that it is inadvisable for them to continue in their present position because of:

  • illness;
  • risks arising out of their pregnancy; and/or
  • hazards connected with their position.

No safe job leave

If there are no appropriate safe jobs available, you are obligated to provide ‘no safe job leave’ for the risk period.

Under the Fair Work Act, you must pay the employee at their base rate of pay for their ordinary hours of work in the risk period.

The no safe job leave will conclude on commencement of any unpaid parental leave.

You are entitled to ask an employee to provide a medical certificate stating whether they are fit for work if they are on no safe job leave during the 6-week period before the expected date of birth.

Medical appointments during work hours

It is not uncommon for pregnant employees to request to attend medical appointments during work hours, and we recommend that you accommodate these requests.

However, you may find it beneficial to set guidelines for when and how employees can attend medical appointments during their pregnancy.

11 steps to take once you are notified an employee is pregnant

To provide support and assistance to an employee during and after their pregnancy, consider taking the following steps:

  1. Perform a risk assessment of any processes, working conditions or agents that could jeopardise the health and safety of the employee or unborn child.
  1. Make reasonable adjustments to the workplace to accommodate the normal effects of pregnancy. For example:
  • allow more frequent rest-room breaks;
  • adjust the height of a desk to make room fora growing stomach; or
  • relax uniform or work attire rules to enable the employee to be comfortable.
  1. Meet with the employee to talk through their rights and obligations. This will include discussing their:
  • parental leave entitlements;
  • right to request flexible work arrangements; and
  • right to request a transfer to a safe job.
  1. Implement and/or enforce relevant policies, such as:
  • an equal opportunity policy; and
  • safety policies, which should cover issues relating to pregnancy, potential pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Ensure that the rights of men as parents are covered, as well as sick leave and parental leave entitlements.

  1. Check the employee’s eligibility for unpaid parental leave and paid parental leave (if provided) and/or personal leave under the National Employment Standards:
  1. Provide the employee with guidelines for when and how they can attend medical appointments during work hours. In the guidelines, consider including whether the employee:
  • is required to take personal leave;
  • has to make up the time that they were absent from work; and/or
  • needs to submit a make-up request form to their supervisor.
  1. If you have received a safe job transfer request, ask that the employee provide you with evidence from their medical practitioner.
  1. Have a conversation with the employee about when they wish to take leave, and discuss with them the formal notice requirements.
  1. Approximately 10 weeks before the leave is due, check that the employee has provided written notice of their intention to take parental leave, including proposed start and end dates.
  1. Approximately 4 weeks before the leave, check that the employee has confirmed the intended dates of leave in writing.
  1. Have a conversation with the employee to discuss how they would like to be communicated with while on leave and write down what is agreed. Do not assume all employees do not want any contact and remember you have to comply with the keeping in touch provisions in the Fair Work Act.

Learn more in the Employment Law Practical Handbook

The following chapters in the Handbook provide more detailed information of what you must do when managing an employee during and after pregnancy:

P1 Pregnant Employees

L7 Parental Leave

F3 Flexible Work Arrangements

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