Flexible Work & Scheduling

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 Employers1

  • 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

Benefits to Children2

  • Improves unborn baby’s health and safety, including lower risk of preterm birth, low birthweight or miscarriage

Benefits to Parents/Families3

  • Improves mother’s health and safety and lowers risk for miscarriage
  • Improves family economic security

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.4
  • There is a slight to moderate increased risk of miscarriage for women who do extensive lifting for their jobs.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.6
  • Women with complicated or high-risk pregnancies also may need accommodations for the health of themselves or their infant.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.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

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and requires that employers treat pregnant women the same as other employees who receive accommodations for health-related reasons. For example, an employer that provides light duty to other employees cannot deny light duty to a pregnant worker.

Employees with serious health conditions related to pregnancy also may have legal protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For example, a woman who develops gestational diabetes, a temporary condition triggered by pregnancy, may be entitled to take breaks to check her blood sugar or have a snack, just as someone with diabetes outside of pregnancy would.

Or a pregnant woman who cannot stand or lift because of severe back pain should be provided a chair or light duty assignment just as other employees suffering from severe back pain due to injury are accommodated.

Though 22 states have passed laws further protecting pregnant workers, North Carolina has not.

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,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.10

Show 10 footnotes
  1. North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. “The Research Basis for Family-Friendly Workplaces.” June 14, 2018. https://files.familyforwardnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/NCECF_FFNC-policyfactsheet-061418.pdf
  2. North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. “The Research Basis for Family-Friendly Workplaces.” June 14, 2018. https://files.familyforwardnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/NCECF_FFNC-policyfactsheet-061418.pdf
  3. North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. “The Research Basis for Family-Friendly Workplaces.” June 14, 2018. https://files.familyforwardnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/NCECF_FFNC-policyfactsheet-061418.pdf
  4. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. April 2018. https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Employment-Considerations-During-Pregnancy-and-the-Postpartum-Period
  5. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. April 2018. https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Employment-Considerations-During-Pregnancy-and-the-Postpartum-Period
  6. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. April 2018. https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Employment-Considerations-During-Pregnancy-and-the-Postpartum-Period
  7. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. April 2018. https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Employment-Considerations-During-Pregnancy-and-the-Postpartum-Period
  8. National Partnership for Women and Families. “Listening to Mothers: The Experiences of Expecting and New Mothers in the Workplace.” 2014. http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/workplace-fairness/pregnancy-discrimination/listening-to-mothers-experiences-of-expecting-and-new-mothers.pdf
  9. National Partnership for Women and Families. “Listening to Mothers: The Experiences of Expecting and New Mothers in the Workplace.” 2014. http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/workplace-fairness/pregnancy-discrimination/listening-to-mothers-experiences-of-expecting-and-new-mothers.pdf
  10. Kitroeff, Natalie and Jessica Silver-Greenberg. “Pregnancy Discrimination is Rampant Inside America’s Biggest Companies.” The New York Times. June 15, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/06/15/business/pregnancy-discrimination.html