Organizational Wellness

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Of 2023: What HR Leaders and Companies Need To Know

Aug 4, 2023
Last Updated Aug 4, 2023

Becoming a parent is an incredible journey, but it can bring with it some unanticipated physical and emotional challenges for the employee concerned. Many employers support their pregnant workers, but there hasn’t been any legal requirement to do so — until now.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is a recent addition to our legal landscape that is all about supporting the wellbeing of pregnant employees, making it a win-win for workers and HR leaders alike. 

Let's break down what the PWFA is, how it differs from existing laws, and what it means to HR leaders and companies.

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What Is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2023?

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2023 is a U.S. federal law that requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to workers as needed if they are pregnant, after childbirth, or if they have medical conditions related to either. Employers are now required to make these accommodations unless doing so will cause them an “undue hardship.” 

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act went into effect on Jun 27, 2023. 

What Companies Are Subject to the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?

The PWFA applies to a wide range of employers, including: public and private sector companies with 15 or more employees, Congress, Federal agencies, employment agencies, and labor organizations.

How the PWFA Differs From Existing Laws

The PWFA expands on the protections already provided under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under these laws, employees are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities.

However, pregnant women are not explicitly included in the definition of “disability.” Under these laws, they had to prove they had a pregnancy-related disability to be eligible for accommodations. Being pregnant alone wasn’t enough to qualify them for any work adjustments.

That’s the biggest difference with the PWFA. This new act means pregnant workers are entitled to reasonable accommodations in the workplace without having to prove they have a disability. It also protects pregnant workers’ rights with a list of prohibited actions, including requiring an employee to take a leave if other accommodations can be provided.

There are other federal laws relevant to pregnant workers and new parents, including the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 and The PUMP Act. However, these focus on accommodations after childbirth, such as providing time off for new mothers, and allowing accommodations for nursing parents.

Additionally, more than 30 states already have laws in place at a state level to offer accommodations or protections for pregnant workers. The PWFA doesn’t replace any federal, state, or local laws that provide greater protections.

Examples of Reasonable Accommodations Under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has provided several examples of possible accommodations employers may need to provide pregnant workers under the PWFA:

  • The ability to sit or drink water
  • Receive closer parking
  • Have flexible hours
  • Receive appropriately-sized uniforms and safety apparel
  • Receive additional break time to use the bathroom, eat, and rest
  • Take leave or time off to recover from childbirth
  • Be excused from strenuous activities and/or activities that involve exposure to compounds not safe for pregnancy

These are just a few examples of the kind of accommodations employers may be required to provide under the new law. You may want to consider meeting with your pregnant employees to better understand any accommodations they may need during their pregnancy.

What the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Means to HR Leaders and Businesses

As with any new labor regulation, it’s a good idea to dig into the nitty-gritty details of the full text — probably with a lawyer — to fully understand the implications for your company. As a starting point, however, here's a basic primer about what the new law means for HR and business leaders.

The Importance of Health and Wellbeing for All Employees

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is a step toward recognizing that pregnant workers have specific needs that differ from their non-pregnant colleagues. If companies can address these needs, they promote a healthier, more inclusive, and productive workplace.

Many HR leaders look for ways to promote employee wellbeing, for example by offering employee wellness programs. These initiatives aim to support the whole person, regardless of age, gender, or physical ability. The PWFA is another way to support employee wellbeing — just focused on a very specific life stage and experience for workers.

Obviously, adhering to the PWFA is about following the law and complying with the latest requirements. But it’s also important for employees to feel like their employers are also embracing the spirit behind the legislation. This is important to today’s workforce: Gympass research found that 78% of workers believe their wellbeing is just as important as their salary, and d employee wellbeing is right at the heart of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

By fully embracing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, you're not just ticking off a legal requirement. You're sending a strong message to all employees that you value their wellbeing and are committed to creating a workplace that supports their work-life wellness. In this way, the PWFA can be a powerful tool for HR leaders looking to improve their work environment. It provides clear guidelines for supporting pregnant workers and ensuring they are not disadvantaged because of their pregnancy.

Best Practices for Implementing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Now the PWFA has come into effect, HR leaders should consider applying these tips when working to integrate the regulations into their everyday operations. 

  1. Communicate

Start by informing your employees about the new law. Use clear, simple language and consider inviting questions from people across the business. Empowering everyone with knowledge is the first step in creating a supportive, safe environment for pregnant workers.

  1. Provide Training

Consider running training sessions for managers and supervisors. These can be a great opportunity to ensure they understand the law and know how to handle accommodation requests appropriately.

3. Use Available Resources

There are resources available to help businesses comply with the law. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, for instance, provides guidance on the PWFA. Don't hesitate to utilize these tools.

4. Review Policies

Check your existing policies to make sure they align with the PWFA requirements. Remember, it's not just about legal compliance — it's a chance to reaffirm your commitment to employee wellbeing and foster a supportive and inclusive workplace.

PWFA: Work-life Wellness in Action

Several existing laws protect the rights of pregnant workers. However, the PWFA fills a gap that created challenges for pregnant women in need of special accommodations in the workforce.

The new law serves as a reminder that work-life wellness thrives on fair treatment and respect for all employees. As HR leaders, embracing the Act is an opportunity to continue building an environment where everyone, including pregnant workers, can thrive. 

Gympass is there for pregnant employees. Our flexible, all-inclusive wellness subscription meets employees wherever they are on their wellbeing journey, including pre- and post-natal personal trainers, yoga for expecting employees, and nutrition tracking apps that can support pregnancy health. 

Want to improve the wellbeing of your workforce? Speak with a Gympass wellbeing specialist today!

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Gympass Editorial Team

The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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