Having a baby is a life-changing experience. Whether you’re planning to get pregnant, or are already expecting, there will not just be changes to your body to contend with, but also adjustments to your work life, too. However, your career should not have to take a backseat just because you’re starting a family. Here are some tips to note if you’re welcoming a little one into your life.
1. The more informed you are, the better
Most workplaces today have policies that look after the wellbeing of their pregnant employees. However, it is not uncommon to hear of occasions where women who are pregnant face some form of job discrimination, such as being passed over for promotions or placed on prolonged probation. A survey conducted by Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) found that over 40% of women experienced job discrimination due to their pregnancy. The good news is that there are laws protecting working women in Malaysia against discrimination.
It is important be familiar with your entitlements as a pregnant employee. Every female employee have certain rights in the workplace before, during and after their pregnancy. For instance, pregnant employees are entitled to the same benefits received by other employees with medical conditions. Also, companies cannot dismiss you on the basis of pregnancy especially when you are still capable of performing at work.
The new Budget 2018 aims to empower more women especially in workplaces, and have introduced paid maternity leave of 90 days.
Budget 2018 has also declared that all new office buildings in Kuala Lumpur and beyond be equipped with Childcare Centres, and it is a requirement for all GLC main buildings. Keep yourself informed on new policies and changes that are taking place, and what avenues are there to help you through.
Besides that, you could look out for facilities for new mothers in your workplace. For example, is there a sick bay with a nurse if you experience complications with your pregnancy, or simply need a place to rest? Is there a clean, private and comfortable room for expressing breast milk? Can you bring your baby or toddler to work if you don’t have support at home, or is there a creche or a day-care centre that can provide care while you’re working?
It’s useful to have a chat with your Human Resources manager to find out what company entitlements there are for mothers and mothers-to-be. Some companies have policies that help women stay longer in the workplace, such as extended maternity leave.
Besides what’s on the books, you can get a better understanding of your workplace by speaking to colleagues who have had children about their pregnancy or birth experiences and how things may have affected them at work.
If you’re interviewing for a new job, it’s beneficial to inquire potential employers about their maternity policies. The idea is to gauge the kind of support companies offer their pregnant employees.
It is all about timing and strategy in balancing your career and pregnancy. If a certain company is good for your career but doesn’t provide avenues for pregnant women, you could consider investing a year or more to upskill and plump up your resume to seek a better opportunity and support with another company.
2. Be clear about your personal goals
Deciding to have a baby is a decision that has a long-term effect, so it is important to think about what your goals are and how you will achieve them during your pregnancy and after the baby is born.
Is your job physically demanding, which may affect the pregnancy? Does your job expose you to toxic substances such as pesticides, paint or fumes? If you’re unsure, do speak to your doctor or conduct some research. A change of vocation or department may have to take place.
Apart from your job, you also need to map out if you will return to work and when, who will look after the baby while you’re working, and build your support network for help with the baby.
Finances are also a big factor. You’ll need to allocate funds for babyproofing your home, doctors’ and hospital bills, and for baby’s nutrition, care and needs. Pregnancies are also unpredictable so it’s crucial to go through possible scenarios with your doctor, your spouse and family members/support system to agree on what actions you will take in different situations when it comes to your work. You may have to plan contingency funds for complications in your pregnancy, birth, or to your baby’s health.
Many first-time mothers also underestimate how difficult it is to leave your little one to go back to work. Figure out how you will manage if you require more unpaid leave, or if you decide to leave your job. One way to be covered is to have an insurance plan that will look after your needs if you’re unable to work, and consider including a policy for the little one too.
Fortunately, Budget 2018 has added many perks for working mothers. All GLCs and government departments are to observe flexibility in working hours for pregnant women and those with newborns. In the public service, expectant mothers five months or more into their pregnancy (and their spouses) are entitled to leave work an hour earlier, with total maternity and childcare leave extended from 300 to 360 days with a limit that only 90 days be claimed per year.
If you do decide to take a break from work to look after your little one, the government has also provided an incentive for women re-entering the workforce, with tax exemptions on income earned within your first year, if you return after a 2-year hiatus.
3. Manage expectations in the workplace
There’s a strategy to announcing your happy news at work. Be sure your immediate boss is the first to know. You want her to hear it straight from you, not through the office gossip. Set up a meeting to inform her and to let her know your due date. According to Marjorie Greenfield, author of ‘The Working Woman’s Pregnancy Book’, keep your tone positive and upbeat, but don't reveal specific plans for time off just yet, and immediately assure her that productivity won’t be affected. Tell her that you’ll create a workflow plan, including any temporary hires when you’re away, closer to the due date.
A month before your leave, give your boss an exact date you expect to stop working and an estimated date that you'll be back. A few weeks before you leave, make a list of all the tasks you're responsible for, explain what you’ll complete, and offer suggestions about how to get other work covered by co-workers. Then set up a team meeting to discuss and manage everyone’s expectations.
Talk to your boss about what work issues you want to know about while you're away, and let her know how she can reach you. Just be sure not to promise too much. Your priority in those first few weeks is to let your body recover and enjoy time your new baby.
Do also discuss if you will need flexible working hours upon your return. Given the Budget 2018’s new stance on empowering women, with GLCs and government departments required to observe flexibility, it is likely your company will have a positive response.
4. Balancing work & pregnancy/motherhood
In managing pregnancy symptoms at work, there’s nothing like knowing what happens to your body and what it needs while you’re pregnant. Managing nausea, for example, is about balancing your blood sugar. Have small, healthy snacks through the day to keep your blood sugar steady. A fresh lemon is handy for a quick juice fix when you feel nauseous.
Your biggest challenge may be fighting fatigue. Boost your energy with a brisk walk at lunchtime, and catch a power nap at work if things get tough. Make sure you get to bed earlier and have enough sleep. It is important to continue your productivity and output momentum at work, even during pregnancy, but not at the expense of your health.
If your boss is flexible, you may want to negotiate time off for monthly doctor’s appointments (ob-gyn before birth, paediatrician after birth) without sacrificing your annual leave.
On the whole, be sure to take care of yourself, and your performance at work should continue uninterrupted. Don’t be afraid to ask for information or support when you need it and enjoy this special time in your life!
The above articles are intended for informational purposes only. AIA accepts no responsibility for loss, which may arise from reliance on information contained in the articles.