Managing Pregnancy — Staff: Employers | American Dental Association

Managing Pregnancy: Staff

Guidelines for Practice Success | Managing Pregnancy | Business Operations

As the owner of a dental practice, you may think you’re exempt from having to be involved in managing a pregnancy. Yet in your role as the leader of the dental team, you will likely have occasions to support your staff, or their spouses/partners, through pregnancies. This resource is intended to provide general guidance for managing pregnant staff members and includes information about where to find additional resources and information from credible sources.

The Dental Practice as a Family and the Dentist as the Leader of the Team

Many dental healthcare workers talk about their colleagues, and sometimes even their patients, as being members of "a family." That type of culture doesn’t exist in all industries, or even in all practices, so it’s important to celebrate and nurture it if it exists in yours.

One potential downside of the "dental practice as family" is that it can lead to a blurring of lines and relationships: while you care about your team and their families, your primary focus is providing customized quality care to each patient, leading and mentoring the staff, and operating a successful business.

This distinction is especially important when a member of the team announces a pregnancy. While your instincts might tell you to be more solicitous of the expectant parent, it is unlawful to treat a pregnant staff member differently than you treat other employees. For these reasons, it’s important for you to be knowledgeable about the many federal regulations regarding the rights of pregnant/nursing employees. You also should determine whether your state has additional, and possibly more stringent, regulations in place. You may want to consider contacting a qualified attorney who specializes in employment law or a human resources professional to ensure compliance with all of the rules that apply to your practice.

Things You Should Know

Several of the key federal regulations regarding pregnant/nursing mothers are discussed in dedicated articles in this resource. A few important things to know include:

  • Make sure your employee policy manual discusses staff pregnancy and nursing/pumping.
    • Any policies must comply with federal and state laws, which may vary depending upon the number of employees working in the practice.
    • It’s a good rule of thumb to have these policies in place and communicated to staff before a pregnancy is announced.
      • New hires should review, and sign a notice confirming that they’ve read the complete employee policy manual, during the onboarding process.
    • Review your employee policy manual periodically to ensure that your policies and levels of benefits are competitive for your market.
      • Having a generous, but affordable, benefits package can help retain staff.
  • Be aware that several jurisdictions now require mandatory paid sick leave and more may follow suit even since this resource is published.
    • Mandatory maternity leave policies and/or sick leave laws, if they exist in your jurisdiction and apply to you, may require employers to amend policies that detail how sick leave and maternity leave work alongside one another.
  • Make sure each staff position has a current and accurate job description.
    • Not only is this part of your responsibility as an employer, it can also be helpful if a pregnant employee wishes to talk with their physician about needing workplace accommodations while pregnant or nursing.
      • The physical and ergonomic demands vary depending upon the role of the individual employee and having a detailed job description can assist the physician in identifying specific accommodations that are appropriate.
      • Employees may have concerns about possible risks that may be associated with working in a dental practice, such as exposure to radiation and nitrous oxide, while pregnant.
        • Detailing possible exposures in the job description help ensure that the physician has complete information.
  • Make sure you’re familiar with the: