Pregnant colleague? Here’s what not to say

Allan Wells

Jan 14, 2015

Brenda Bouw, The Globe and Mail

(Recap)

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Experts say employers and co-workers alike need to be more careful about the comments they make to expectant mothers, and how they treat them.

“Pregnancy discrimination is sex discrimination and is prohibited under Canadian human rights legislation,” says Allan Wells, an employment lawyer and partner at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP.

He says pregnant women are also entitled to accommodation, which means changes to their work environment or job that protect their well-being and that of their unborn child.

For example, a woman who stands all day for her job may need to sit on a stool for parts of the day. Or, she may not be able to do physical activity such as heavy lifting or constant forward bending. Pregnant women may also be unable to travel after a certain stage of pregnancy, depending on what the doctor recommends.

“The challenge for employers is the tension between being accommodating and paternalistic,” Mr. Wells said.

He says some employers can be overly protective, which can trigger complaints from women who say they’re not being allowed to do their job. Mr. Wells recommends employers work with pregnant employees on an individual basis to find solutions to any concerns.

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