Pregnant Worker Accommodations
Pregnant worker accommodations are work adjustments such as more frequent breaks or light carry duty that allow pregnant women to do their jobs safely, without jeopardizing their health or the health of their babies.
Benefits to EmployersFootnote # 1
- Increases productivity
- Provides benefit to employee at no– or low-cost to employer
- Improves recruitment
- Increases retention, reducing turnover costs
- Reduces employee absenteeism
- Reduces health care costs
- Reduces litigation costs
- Increases diversity
- Increases safety
- Increases employee commitment and satisfaction
Research or Recommendations from National Organizations
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:
- It is generally safe for a woman with an uncomplicated pregnancy to work without adverse health effects to her or her infant.Footnote # 4
- There is a slight to moderate increased risk of miscarriage for women who do extensive lifting for their jobs.Footnote # 5
- Accommodations may be needed for women who are exposed to toxins such as pesticides and heavy metals, or in jobs that have an increased risk of falls or injuries.Footnote # 6
- Women with complicated or high-risk pregnancies also may need accommodations for the health of themselves or their infant.Footnote # 7
Most often, women need minor accommodations during work to protect their health while pregnant, according to a national survey of more than 1,000 US women who have given birth.Footnote # 8
The survey, conducted by Childbirth Connection program of the National Partnership for Women and Families, found that:
- Seventy-one percent of women surveyed said they needed more frequent breaks during their pregnancy.
- Sixty-one percent of those surveyed said they needed a schedule modification or time off to obtain critical health care.
- A change in job duties, such as less lifting or more sitting, was needed by 53 percent of women surveyed.
- And 40 percent said they needed some other type of workplace adjustment as a result of a pregnancy-related condition.
- Pregnant women who hold part-time, lower- wage, lower-skilled or more physically demanding jobs are more likely to need some kind of minor accommodation at work. When requests for adjustments are denied, low- wage workers are more likely to be forced to choose between their job and the health of themselves or their child.
Range of Practices in the United States
- In 2022, Congress passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which will take effect in June of 2023. The legislation requires employers with 15 or more workers to provide reasonable accommodations for job applicants and employees with conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.
- The PWFA also prohibits employers from discriminating against a job candidate or employee because of their need for a pregnancy-related accommodation. Reasonable accommodations can include (but are not limited to) assigning light duty that doesn’t involve heavy lifting or allowing more frequent bathroom breaks.
- Thirty states and the District of Columbia have passed laws further protecting pregnant workers. In 2018, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order that applies to state agencies over which the Governor has oversight responsibility, which requires those agencies to provide accommodations due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical condition.
- Despite federal and state laws, the National Partnership for Women and Children estimates that nearly one-quarter of a million women are denied their requests for pregnancy accommodations each year,Footnote # 9 and the number of pregnancy discrimination claims filed annually with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been steadily increasing for the past 20 years.Footnote # 10