As an employer, you are likely familiar with the legal protections pregnant employees are allowed. But what happens when a pregnant employee experiences hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) or another high risk pregnancy complication?
HG is a severe form of pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting and can cause serious side effects ranging from metabolic imbalances to dehydration and malnutrition to severe weight loss. It is very different from routine morning sickness and can last the entire duration of a pregnancy.
These symptoms can require a pregnant employee suffering from HG to miss work due to extreme illness, hospitalization, and other complications. As an employer, you are in a powerful position to support your employee and influence better health outcomes, so she can continue her work during and after pregnancy.
Here are a some ways you can help an employee suffering from HG
Offer Intermittent FMLA
Many employees are unaware that family medical leave can be flexible and taken over time rather than all at once. Discussing this option with your employee can provide them with a tool they need to remain healthy and employed.
Offer a flexible or shifted schedule
HG can be unpredictable day to day so flexibility is crucial. Perhaps your employee needs extra time in the morning to overcome nausea and prepare for the workday. Shifting a workday a few hours later could be a life and productivity saver. Allowing for flexible telecommuting or working remotely is another great way for an employee suffering from HG to care for herself while still contributing at work.
Adjust work duties
If an employee with HG has a job that requires standing for long periods or extensive travel, this is a good time to temporarily adjust her job duties. Many sufferers of HG report exacerbated nausea while using or scrolling through screens. Explore ways to limit exposure to nausea triggers within job duties.
Ask your employee what she needs
HG is not something a woman expects when she becomes pregnant. It interferes with her ability to perform regular, daily activities and can be as detrimental to her mental health as it is to her physical health. Providing moral support and asking for her input are important ways to make sure she is set up for success during this sudden and unpredictable illness.
Each of these strategies would help support an employee facing an HG pregnancy or any other high risk pregnancy.
For more information on HG and how you can get involved, visit these pages: