HR people know that it’s a mistake – and the first step toward a lawsuit – to assume a pregnant employee will harm her health or her baby’s by working.

Now comes a medical study that backs up that point.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota analyzed survey responses from 1,600 women who delivered a child in 2005. They found that whether the mother was employed or not while pregnant made no difference to the baby’s:

  • birth weight, or
  • arrival at or ahead of term.

No health effect
The study’s conclusion: The mere fact of an expectant mother’s being employed has little impact on her baby’s health.

So instead of worrying about whether a pregnant woman is working, the researchers said, employers should be concerned about job characteristics that may contribute to negative outcomes for the newborn – like strenuous physical labor or long hours.

But note: It’s still up to the expectant mother to ask for any accommodation. Employers who conclude that a pregnant employee can’t handle her job anymore, because of its physical demands or for any other reason, are walking on thin ice.

What HR can do is think ahead of time about possible accommodations for such employees, so that if they do approach you, you can engage in a meaningful discussion right away.

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