A recent survey carried out in the USA has revealed that many women are afraid to disclose their pregnancies to their employers.

The Modern Family Index 2018  was commissioned by Bright Horizon to investigate the difficulties mothers face in the workplace as opposed to working fathers. A total of 2,143 employed Americans aged above 18 were interviewed.

Top on the list of reasons as to why working mothers did not want to tell their employers they are pregnant was that they felt they had to put in more effort to thrive at work when compared to their male counterparts. While 41 percent of those polled were of the opinion that working mothers are less committed to their jobs.

Despite living in the times of active women empowerment, the findings in this survey seem to offer yet more evidence of an all too familiar trend; the ugly motherhood penalty.

The motherhood penalty is the term given by sociologists when working mothers are considered less competent because they may not be able to handle the same work as a man or non-mother while having to take care of her children. As a result, she then earns less than men and non-mothers.

It is quite ironic that the same survey also had a whooping 85 percent of recipients with an opinion that motherhood imparts lessons that benefit business leaders. Such benefits include, better listening skills, staying calm during emergencies and team player. Successful working mothers in top leadership positions  were also viewed as role models for women in their early careers.

Employers should therefore strike a balance that taps into the strengths of working mothers as opposed to penalising them after child birth.  Below are tips on how employers can achieve this:

  • Flexible work hours

Employers should ensure that working mothers transition easily back to their jobs after maternity leave. Key considerations should be offering flexibility in schedules that allow working mothers to attend their new roles for example childcare,  clinic  and school appointments to mention but a few. Working mothers should not feel like they are being punished covertly or overtly for taking advantage of scheduling flexibility or maternity leave. This means no discrimination in terms of promotions or meetings.

  • Gradual maternity return

Working mothers feel anxious when resuming work form maternity leave. This is brought about by a high need to get right back into work mode which may not necessarily be easy. This may lead to anxiety as they try to prove their worth. To ease this, employers can adjust or gradually increase the work hours, provide a work from home opportunity or compress their work schedules. Employers should realise that a relaxed working mother is a productive employee.

  • Breastfeeding facilities

Employers can help working mothers by designating specific private areas where mother’s can express milk or breastfeed their children. This not only saves on time, but it makes the working mother feel valued and appreciated.

  • Acknowledge Special needs children

Special needs children require more care from the mother and employers should support their employees by being flexible in terms of work hours, providing extra parental leave days as well as provide counselling and support networks for parents with such children. This will go a long way in taking the pressure of the working mother who will then be able to focus more on work.