Supporting pregnant women and mothers in the workforce

For most women, maintaining a job during pregnancy and after the birth of their children is a financial necessity. Many women are also committed to continuing the careers that they have worked hard to establish. The needs of pregnant women and mothers can change. It is important that employers are supportive of these needs, recognise employee entitlements and make allowances as required.


Pregnant employees

Employers should consider making all reasonable adjustments to the workplace to accommodate the normal effects of pregnancy, which may vary based on the individuals’ circumstances.


Examples of how employers can support pregnant women include:

  • consulting OH&S representatives to ensure the workplace is safe for, and accommodates the needs of, pregnant women. This may result in minor changes to job duties (e.g. removing requirements for heavy lifting, provision of seating)
  • allowing time off to attend anti-natal appointments
  • recognising the need to increase the number of toilet breaks
  • understanding there may be an increase in the amount of sick days taken
  • providing larger uniforms or not requiring pregnant women to wear uniforms
  • ensuring that pregnant women continue to have access to training and development opportunities and are still considered for new job roles, promotions and as part of succession planning
  • facilitate a network where women can talk about their pregnancies and employment


For further information:

·            The Australian Human Rights Commission Pregnancy Guidelines

·            Equal Opportunity Commission of South Australia’s Pregnancy Discrimination Factsheet



Parental leave

Parental leave allows employees to take time away from work for the birth or adoption of a child. Examples of best practice principles for supporting employees on parental leave include:

  • offering paid parental leave in addition to the government-funded parental leave scheme
  • providing the option for paid leave to be taken at half pay
  • ‘topping up’ an employee’s pay during the period of Government-funded Parental Leave Pay to their full rate of pay
  • continuing to pay superannuation contributions while an employee is on unpaid leave.

For further information:



Keeping in touch with employees on parental leave

There is no requirement for employees to maintain contact with the workplace while on parental leave however some employees may  like the opportunity to be kept informed and included in some capacity. Examples of initiatives include:

  • arranging for employees to have remote access to their work email account or forwarding staff newsletters, updates and important emails to the employee’s private email account
  • extending invitations for social events, planning days, training or team building days
  • forwarding important information about changes to the workplace, including information on new job opportunities.

A meeting should be arranged with the employee when they are approaching the end of their leave to discuss their return-to-work expectations such as hours of work, options for flexible working arrangements etc.


Returning to work

The National Employment Standards provides employees with a return-to-work guarantee, allowing female employees to return to the same position they held before they commenced their period of parental leave. Important considerations include:

  • Ensuring women are aware of their options for working flexibility (e.g., including part time)
  • Ensuring women continue to be given access to training and development opportunities, considered and recommended for new job roles, promotions and as part of succession planning.
  • Providing a clean private room (other than a toilet) where nursing employees can express breast milk. This includes provide a comfortable chair, access to a small fridge and facilities for washing hands and storing expressing equipment.
  • Providing training to leaders on how to support and address the needs of women returning to work following parental leave.



“It can be difficult to juggle your home life with the time constraints around study, professional development and commitment to external working groups or committees, the things that get you noticed. But the industry knows this and is beginning to be more proactive in bringing women to the front of the forum and providing opportunities for the best employees regardless of gender to rise to the top”
Stephanie Bolt – Environmental Manager, Adelaide Airport



For further information:


Questions for reflection:

  • How does your workplace accommodate for the needs of pregnant employees?
  • What feedback has been collated from pregnant employees and employees returning from parental leave regarding their experience in the workplace (positive and negative)? What improvements could be made?
  • How do leaders support women returning from parental leave?