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Workplace Health - Reproductive Health and Pregnancy

Reproductive health begins before conception, as good health prior to pregnancy can reduce problems during pregnancy and improve babies’ health at birth. Improving the general health of individuals and/or couples prior to conception is beneficial, since almost half of all Canadian pregnancies are unplanned.

Information for Employers

It is important that workplaces have an understanding of how to encourage healthy work-life balance. Simple changes to the workplace can have positive impacts on employee health and increase productivity.

Before Pregnancy

All workplaces should have policies and practices put in place to support expectant mothers and fathers.  Many work environments can be harmful to expectant parents during pregnancy, before pregnancy or before a mother knows she is pregnant.1

During Pregnancy

Workplaces can help prevent problems during pregnancy

It is usually safe for women to work during pregnancy.   Some risks in the workplace can be reduced by planning ahead.  Some of the risks for pregnant women in the workplace are:

  •  Lifting and heavy work1
  • Long periods of standing
  • More than 40 hours of work in a week
  • Some chemicals and heavy metals1
  • Fatigue and stress
  • Excessive noise and heat1
  • Some infectious diseases1
  • Radiation and anesthetic gas1

The Rights of a Pregnant Worker

The Ontario Human Rights Commission identifies the rights of pregnant women.  Discrimination against pregnant women can include:

  •  Asking an employee if they are pregnant2
  • Withholding work or not assigning her to a team2
  • Being overly critical of her work2
  • Docking time for using the washroom more often2
  • Limiting or withholding opportunities2
  • Making inappropriate remarks or jokes related to her pregnancy2
  • Firing because of pregnancy2
  • Transferring her against her wishes2
  • Not allowing sick leave benefits2

Returning to Work After Having a Baby

Every parent has different feelings about going back to work after they have a baby.  During this time workplaces can help by understanding that this can be a difficult transition and providing options such as flex time, job sharing or part time work.1 This will allow new parents to come up with a plan that works for them, the baby and the workplace.

Supporting Breastfeeding in the Workplace

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate foods up to two years of age or beyond.3  There are many benefits to breastfeeding.  Workplaces should support breastfeeding families.

The Rights of a Breastfeeding Woman:

  • The Ontario Human Rights Code says employers must meet the needs of those breastfeeding unless they are expensive or a danger to the health and safety of employees and employers2
  • Women are legally safe from discrimination and harassment because of their gender, and this includes breastfeeding2

 The Benefits of Being a Breastfeeding Supportive Workplace:

  • Breastfeeding supports the immune system of a baby, so mothers will be absent less often1
  • Less turnover will happen, as mothers will be more likely to stay with the company1
  • Productivity will increase as mothers are happier with their job1
  • The company will be seen as an attractive employer1

 How to Create a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace:

  • Allow for schedules that accommodate breastfeeding needs1
  • A comfortable and clean area for mothers to express breastmilk1
  • Electrical outlet for mothers using breastpumps1
  • Access to refrigerator where mothers can keep expressed milk1
  • Teach all employees on breastfeeding to increase knowledge and support1
  • Create a policy that shows breastfeeding is valued and breastfeeding mothers are supported1
Date of creation: January 9, 2013
Last modified on: April 26, 2019