If you are working whilst pregnant or returning to work after maternity leave, you can certainly ask you employer for reduced hours – however, this will come with certain changes to your maternity pay. Working reduced hours can benefit your health and your relationship with your child, so it is important to speak to your employer regarding your working hours. If you decide upon an agreement with your employer, which is in the best interest of you and your health, ensure this reduction to your hours is confirmed in writing and you understand how these changes might affect you.
Working hours as a new or expectant mother
The Amsterdam Born Children and their Development research group conducted research into different effects on developing babies. The research concluded that the effects of stress on a child in the womb can be significant. It has been considered that whilst you are pregnant, working more than 32 hours a week could pose a risk to you and your unborn child.
It has been found that stress increases the level of cortisol, which can lead to further health complications. Therefore, it has been advised that working mothers in stressful jobs should work reduced hours, to avoid the effects which stress can have.
Currently, in the UK you can continue working your usual hours, which can be up to 40 hours a week, if a risk assessment has confirmed that the working conditions are safe. You must prioritise your health and decide whether it is appropriate to work reduced hours.
Reduced working hours for a new or expectant mother
If you feel that working whilst pregnant is leading you to feel ill and severely tired, it is important to speak to your employer and manager about this. If your illness is a direct effect of unsafe working conditions, then your employer is responsible for ensuring that these working conditions are rectified. As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that working conditions are safe and appropriate for pregnant employees to continue working.
If your employer assesses the working conditions and concludes that your job is too tiring, then they can reduce your working hours to make your role feasible. If your employer reduces your work hours due to working conditions, then this should not affect your pay or your maternity pay. However, if working conditions are suitable but you ask your employer to reduce your hours, then this will affect your pay and maternity pay.
Sweden is renowned for their progressive policies on gender equality, particularly their policy on parental leave. Sweden's policy for parental leave is notably generous, as it includes paid time off and reduced working hours for both parents who have returned to work. Sweden's initiative upholds the belief that both parents should have equal roles in raising their children and spending time with their children.
The Swedish government's statutory paid leave after having a young child enter the family is 240 days for each parent, which is paid with 80% of their normal salary. The policy even includes extra days for those who have twins. Sweden's policy offers fathers the largest number of leave days over any other county, as there are statutory 90 days reserved for each parent, which cannot be transferred. The 240 days offered to each parent can be taken up until the child is 8 years old, meaning that you can prioritise different years of the child's life.
It is important to prioritise your health and your child over your working hours. Therefore, knowing how to conduct this process properly in co-operation with your employer is of the utmost importance.