Working that bump
Know your rights, and have confidence, when you tell your boss the happy news
It’s a good thing most women have aced the art of multi-tasking because being pregnant in the workplace requires a whole lot of juggling, and then some! The good news is that it’s illegal for your boss to discriminate against you because you’re expecting. You’ve got rights, and usually employers are pretty okay when it comes to accepting them.
Most women find disclosing their pregnancy difficult; many feel that their job’s in jeopardy. Relax. It’s not. Leading labour law expert and public speaker John Botha tells it like it is:
Plan your strategy
- The law’s on your side. You cannot be fired because you’re pregnant.
- Get yourself sussed. Read your company’s handbook and see if anything is mentioned about pregnancy or maternity leave. Also read the Code of Good Practice on Pregnant Employees on the Department of Labour website www.labour.gov.za
- You can fall pregnant as many times as you wish and as soon as you wish (unless you live in China!) as there are no limits to this under the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.
- You are generally not allowed to return to work for at least 6 weeks after your baby’s arrival.
- You can request that hazardous work-duties are eliminated for up to 6 months after the date of birth.
- You can ask for your annual leave to run adjacent to your maternity leave to provide more opportunity to adjust, however your boss is entitled to refuse this on justifiable grounds.
- Your life partner is entitled to at least 3 days family responsibility leave to assist you (3 MONTHS would be more like it!)
Clinical psychologist Mandy Rodrigues offers some workplace survival strategies for new moms-to-be:
Been there, done that
- Your first trimester is the most challenging time when it comes to working during your pregnancy. Coping with nausea, vomiting, fatigue and hormones in overdrive makes it pretty difficult to fully function in the workplace. The risk of miscarriage, coupled with the fact that many women choose not to tell too many people about their pregnancy this early on, adds to the anxiety levels as you try to juggle work load, doctors visits and not feeling great. However there is merit in telling your employer during the early months because it elicits empathy and understanding, which may ease your anxiety about taking time off for doctor’s appointments.
- Once you get past the first trimester, you’ll probably be able to get back into your normal routine. But as the pregnancy progresses, it’s important to ensure that you start taking things easy. Take regular breaks and put your feet up if you’ve been standing; get up and move around if you’ve been sitting. Wear flat, comfortable shoes and if you work at a PC have it checked to see that your workstation is ergonomically correct.
- Closer to your delivery date all hell’s bound to break loose. You’re exhausted, can’t wait for your maternity leave, yet constantly worry about finishing everything before you go. The best way to deal with this is to make a list of everything that needs to be done, and tackle the list from most important and urgent, to least. Putting pen to paper makes most things less overwhelming.
“After recovering from the joy of finding out I was pregnant the scary prospect of telling my boss was rather nerve-wracking to say the least.” Claudine, 28
When did you tell your boss about your pregnancy? For how long will you take maternity leave? Share in the box below.
- Ask a colleague who’s had a baby (and who you can trust with confidentiality) for the lowdown on what happened when she broke the news to your boss. What was his response? Any tips on how best to handle this?
- Many women wait for after the first trimester to tell their employer. However, if you are experiencing a complicated pregnancy or work in a stressful environment, inform your boss sooner rather than later in order to ensure sympathy rather than a warning.
- Make an appointment with your boss to share the news and discuss all the issues that are bothering you, like when your last day will be and when you’ll be back.