Pregnant at work

Pregnant employees have rights at work to protect their health and that of their baby

Pregnancy is not a disease, but it is a special situation that requires specific care to ensure the health of the mother and the baby. If you're pregnant and working, your employer must ensure your health and safety throughout the pregnancy.

When must you tell your employer you are pregnant?

This is a personal decision, as the law does not require you to inform your employer, even in a job interview, of your pregnancy, and nor does it establish a date when you are obliged to report it.

The Workers’ Statute establishes the principle of nullity regarding the dismissal of pregnant employee. If this occurs, the employee has the right to choose between an indemnity of 45 days for every year worked or immediate reincorporation to their post. If the employee has an indefinite contract, it is advisable to report the pregnancy as soon as possible in order to be able to justify absences, when applicable, for doctor's visits during working hours.

If the employee is on a temporary contract, the decision to report the pregnancy is more a personal decision. The employee can wait to sign a new contract or report it when they feel it the right moment (maternity leave has no cost for the company). However, if the job involves any type of risk for the pregnancy, the employee is advised to report it as soon as possible, as the law obliges the company to transfer a pregnant employee to a safe position, and if this is not possible, consider the possibility of a special leave.

Can a pregnant employee schedule doctor's visits during working hours?

Yes. According to article 26.5 of the Law on Prevention of Occupational Risks, "pregnant employees are entitled to paid time off for antenatal care and birth preparation, provided that they inform the employer and justify the need to make these medical visits within working hours".

 

Risk during pregnancy

The law protects pregnant employees when their job may be harmful for their health or that of the baby they are expecting. Some jobs are directly incompatible with pregnancy, such as professions that involve contact with certain chemical or biological agents, or exposure to radiation that may harm the fetus.

When the work activity involves a risk for the pregnant employee or the fetus, the law obliges the company to modify the work conditions to avoid these risks.

If the employer cannot modify the conditions of the post or offer a suitable alternative work, the pregnant employee should be given medical leave, and she will receive a benefit for risk to the pregnancy, equivalent to 100% of the regulatory base (a daily amount obtained from dividing the salary before deductions in 30 days).

For this reason, in the first visit to the gynecologist, the practitioner will ask the mother about her work conditions, in order to assess the situation and identify any changes that are necessary.

However, if a pregnant worker has a certificate from their doctor that specifically states that working at night may harm the health of the mother or the baby, the mother may request a change of shift. Article 26.1 of the Law on Occupational Risk Prevention, contemplates night work and shift work as conditions that may represent a pregnancy risk.

When work involves a risk for the pregnant employee or the fetus, the company must find another suitable place of work. If this is not possible, the employer must suspend the worker from work on paid leave

Can a pregnant employee work up until her due date?

If the pregnancy is progressing well and depending on the type of work and the schedule, the pregnant employee can work until the due date, However, sometimes in the last weeks, a doctor will prescribe sick leave (which is not discounted from maternity leave) to avoid added fatigue that is often caused by travel and work stress, especially in jobs that require workers to remain in the same position for long periods.

During this medical leave, the Social Security Institute will pay a benefit for temporary sick leave equivalent to 60% of the regulatory base from the 4th to 20th day of the medical leave and of 75% from the 21st day onward, although many company agreements establish that the company will complement this percentage up to 100%.

Risk assessment at work

Although a job in general may not pose a risk for the pregnancy, certain adjustments should be made. Risks include:

  • Lifting or carrying heavy loads.
  • Exposure to excessive heat or cold, machine vibrations and noisy environments.
  • Stressful conditions. Running to catch a train or bus.
  • If driving is necessary, it is advisable to keep a minimum distance of 25 cm between the chest and the steering wheel. Make sure the shoulder belt goes over the shoulder and down across the chest, between the breasts. Make sure the lap belt is worn as low as possible under the abdomen and the baby.
  • Towards the end of the pregnancy, when the abdomen is large, the doctor may advise a pregnant employee to stop driving.
  • When pregnant, it is recommendable to eat often and small quantities. Pregnant employees should take a snack to work (a piece of fruit, fruit juice or yogurt) and take several breaks to eat.
  • If the job involves standing for long hours, the use of compression stockings is recommended to help with the blood circulation. Pregnant employees should sit down for a few minutes every hour. If possible, rest with the legs up.
  • In sedentary jobs, use a chair with adjustable height and the back to support the lumbar region. Put the feet on a low stool and get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour: go for a walk, and if this is not possible, stand up and stretch the arms and legs.
  • It is important to avoid stress, as this is a risk factor in premature births. If the job is causing too much stress, talk to the doctor so they can carry out an assessment.