For the employee, becoming pregnant is something that can be the happiest time of their life. Completely changing the way they approach everything, having a child is seen as one of the most joyous occasions ever.
For a small business owner, however, it can seem like it’s the end of the world. Especially if you only have a handful of employees, you’re likely to rely on each of them considerably to ensure the smooth and successful operation of your business. Therefore, when one becomes pregnant, as they will have to take time off, it can feel as though you’re going to lose a limb.
But having pregnant employees doesn’t have to be something that damage your business and you can rejoice in the occasion just as much as the employee can – you’ve just got to know how to approach the situation to get the most out of it for everyone.
And the very first thing you need to do is understand that you’re almost always legally obliged to give the employee certain time off. There’s no way you can get around this, so it’s pointless getting annoyed about it. Instead, you need to use this information to plan for various eventualities.
Take maternity leave as an example. Wherever you are in the world, any female employee is entitled to some level of maternity leave. Sometimes this will be with full pay for a few weeks, other times it may be reduced for several months, but whatever it is, chances are you’re going to be missing an employee for a few months.
Now although you legally can’t say that an employee has to come back to work immediately after giving birth or that their job won’t be there for them if they don’t return within a month or two, what you can do is hire a replacement for a period that covers the maternity leave.
It might not be ideal for the candidate, but in this day and age people are looking for whatever job they can find, regardless of the length of the contract. Therefore, although employing someone new for six months might not seem ideal and it might even leave you feeling a little upset for the employee as you know you can’t take them on afterwards, as long as its made clear from the start, there shouldn’t be any issues and you should be able to ensure your business doesn’t suffer from reduced manpower.
Another important point to consider is the well-being and efficiency of your pregnant employees, as you may actually prove to get more from them if you’re more flexible with their working hours and general working arrangements.
Imagine they were suffering particularly badly from morning sickness and they were struggling to get into work for 9am every day.
Could you put back the employee’s start time until 10am to give them more time on a morning? Alternatively, could the employee work from home occasionally? It might not be a possibility for everyone, but if they have no face-to-face contact with customers and the vast majority of the communication they make is via e-mail, do they really need to be in the office everyday?
Remember, happy employees are efficient employees. If you can ensure you’re doing your utmost to make the pregnant employee as comfortable as you can, they’ll be happier and more relaxed, which in turn should ensure that when they are working, they’ll be extremely efficient.
What’s also important to keep in mind is your financial siuation. You’re likely to be obliged to provide leave that is paid for, but being obliged and being able to are completely different things, especially when you may have a temporary member of staff to pay for.
If this is the case, you need to start planning as soon as possible. Chances are your employee will tell you they’re expecting at around 12 weeks. Assuming their maternity leave starts four weeks before their due date, that gives you 24 weeks – or roughly five months – to prepare.
It might sound like a particularly long time, but if you’re not certain you can afford the maternity pay now, you need to give yourself as much time as possible to work out a solution.
Having pregnant employees can be difficult for your small business, but it really doesn’t have to be. You simply need to look at the whole situation, understand there are certain things you can’t change and that ultimately, the more you do for your pregnant employees, the more it’s going to benefit your small business.