Maternity Leave


“Support women in pregnancy and parenthood and you will have one committed employee.”

There’s no need to wrap her in cotton wool. Dealing with a pregnancy really isn’t much different to dealing with an employee with an injury.

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The best thing to do is talk with her and make a plan together. Plan regular check-ins and keep her actively engaged in managing her work.

Some people breeze through their pregnancy, while others can sometimes experience morning sickness or tiredness. So be flexible and open to the fact that plans might need to change.

Dave: So it’s pretty much business as usual until she’s ready to pop?

TradeCareers: Not quite, Dave. There are a few things to consider to keep future mum and baby safe on-site, like the risks associated with exposure to noise, dust, and chemicals.

PPE

The correct fit of PPE is important for all your workers but baby bellies grow quicker than beer bellies. Basic Women’s Pregnancy workwear is available in NZ from Bisley Workwear. An expanded pregnancy range with more options can be shipped from Australia via CO Gear.

Noise

Your pregnant worker can protect herself from power tools and machinery noise using standard hearing protection, but her baby’s hearing rapidly develops from the 24-week mark. Even with the cushioning effect of the womb, continued exposure to loud noise risks the baby’s hearing. If the worksite has loud and continuous noises after the 24-week point, consider alternative duties, jobs, or training opportunities.

Dust And Particulates

Changes during pregnancy increase the amount of air a woman breathes in and out. Dust or particulate matter occurs around worksites from rock matter to diesel fumes. The possible negative effects of these can be greater during pregnancy. Fit testing for masks is available to ensure her respiratory protection is adequate. Fit testing providers can be found through the HASANZ Register or the Commit2Fit register.

Chemicals And Solvents

These are used every day in the trades and some can be harmful to an unborn baby through contact with the pregnant mum. These risks will be listed on the supplier MSDSs that come with any chemicals or solvents used on-site.

Toilets

Pregnancy can cause more trips to the toilet than usual – sometimes urgently! So make sure they’re nearby and safely accessible.

Dave: How will I know when it’s time for her to go to lighter duties, or when it’s time she stopped going up ladders?

TradeCareers: Most women will be under the care of a maternity specialist. They can advise about what duties are appropriate for each stage of their pregnancy and what pregnancy-specific hazards to avoid or protect against. Under the law, she can have paid time off to visit her maternity specialist.

Sometimes, things don’t go entirely as planned. She may need to be off the tools for a high-risk pregnancy. This could be an opportunity for her to learn about another part of the business like writing or reviewing SOPs, learning how to quote jobs, upskilling with a training course, or carving out some study time for that apprentice paperwork.

Most of the time, things will go just fine. Here’s what one employer told us.

“I had an employee who worked through to 7½ months. Women get pregnant. It’s just part of life. Take advice from your employee’s midwife and it will be ok. You can tailor the work around a pregnant woman by being selective of the jobs you send her to.”

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These days, many women return to work as soon as they can after having a baby – especially when they’ve already committed time and effort towards getting a qualification.

Keep her challenged, interested, and treat her well. Before she goes on parental leave, discuss expectations around communication while she’s off, who she can contact, and the return-to-work process.

How do I sort out parental leave?

Employment New Zealand has published everything you need to know about parental leave and employment law. Here’s the gist of it.

Employees who’ve worked for you for at least an average of 10 hours a week for 12 months or more just before the expected birth of the child, or the date they’ll take over the care of the child, are entitled to:

  • 52 weeks of unpaid parental leave
  • 26 weeks of government-funded parental leave payments if they will be the ‘primary carer’ of a child born (or coming into their care) on or after 1 July 2018.

Employees who’ve worked for you for at least an average of 10 hours a week for 6 months or more just before the expected birth of the child, or the date they’ll take over the care of the child, are entitled to:

  • 26 weeks of unpaid parental leave
  • 26 weeks of government-funded parental leave payments if they will be the ‘primary carer’ of a child born (or coming into their care) on or after 1 July 2018.

Employment New Zealand’s info includes who is eligible, associated entitlements such as government-funded parental leave payments, and how employers should respond to a request for parental leave.

You can find more info here.

How do I sort out flexible working arrangements?

It’s true that women sometimes have extra caregiving responsibilities that require some flexibility around work arrangements. Dads who have shared custody of their children are likely to need some flexibility too. In fact, any of us could find ourselves in a caregiver role if we have an unwell partner, parent or relative.

Beyond caregiving, a variety of pursuits in people’s lives outside work might benefit from some occasional workplace flexibility.

Every situation is different so the easiest way to sort things is to have a conversation with your employee about what the objectives and expectations are.

There are lots of ways to look at flexible work solutions and they don't necessarily mean working less. Flexibility is about helping people to manage their work and personal commitments while also meeting the needs of your business.

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At a time when it can be tough to find good staff, and just as tough to keep them, offering work flexibility and making it known can be a good business move.

Dave: Yeah, look. I see what you’re saying but I wouldn’t know where to start!

TradeCareers: Here’s a handy guide from Employment New Zealand, Dave. It outlines everything you need to know.

Dave: Sweet. Too easy!