We are currently in the midst of the time of year between July and September when the most babies are born in America, peaking in mid-September with nine of the ten most common birthdays in America falling between September 9th through 20th.
This means that, as an employer, you are more likely than any other time of year to currently have either a pregnant employee, or one soon to take maternity or paternity leave. As a small business owner, do you know what to do in the case of one of your employees becoming pregnant? What if it is not your employee, but their spouse who is pregnant? Is it different if they are not legally married to their pregnant significant other?
The most obvious place to look for necessary pregnancy accommodations is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
In general, it is important to know whether you are subject to FMLA as a covered employer considering pregnancy is far from the only event that permits eligible employees to take job-protected leave.
For a company to be subject to FMLA regulations, they must:
- Be a private company with at least 50 employees.
- Have 50 or more employees for each working day during 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding year.
- Have at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.
- Government agencies and schools are subject to FMLA regulations regardless of their total number of employees.
It is important to remember that your employee does not have to actually be pregnant to be covered under the pregnancy provisions of FMLA. FMLA leave may be taken during pregnancy, following the birth, to bond within the first year, for any incapacity related to pregnancy, and for the employee’s own serious health condition following the birth.
Nor do they necessarily have to be married to the pregnant individual, or have a biological or legal relationship with the child. According to the Department of Labor:
“Parent means a biological, adoptive, step or foster father or mother, or any other individual who stood in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a son or daughter,” and “persons who are ‘in loco parentis’ include those with day-to-day responsibilities to care for and financially support a child, or, in the case of an employee, who had such responsibility for the employee when the employee was a child. A biological or legal relationship is not necessary.”
Other Considerations for Pregnant Employees
Outside of FMLA accommodations, there are other considerations to be made for pregnancy as an employer. These considerations are important not only for compliance reasons, but also for creating strong company culture that potential job candidates will be drawn to, and increase retention of top-notch employees.
Here are some examples of reasonable accommodations to consider according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidance on pregnancy discrimination and related issues.
- More frequent breaks
- Seating accommodation
- Redistributing certain job functions
- Altering the manner in which an employee performs job functions
- Modifying policies, equipment, devices, and schedules
- Temporary assignments to light duty position
- Granting leaves
By demonstrating a willingness to work with and accommodate your employees’ needs, you present your company as a place where they can envision having a future and achieving their personal goals and dreams—not just their professional ones.