Maternity Leave is Over: Can You Take Your Infant to Your Job?

by annbailey on May 9, 2013

The law requires qualified employers to provide parents of newborn children with up to three months of leave to bring their new child into the world and make arrangements for its care. Unfortunately, one’s responsibility to care for one’s child does not have a twelve-week time limit. Bringing one’s child to work is an excellent way to bond with a new baby while meeting one’s professional obligations. However, if the employer is not receptive to this idea, the mother’s options are limited.

Taking Your Baby to Work

Most businesses willingly allow new parents to take their infant children to work provided that the child is not disruptive to the work environment. Coworkers in an office environment tend to form interpersonal relationships, making a new baby a topic of conversation throughout the office. Children who are properly protected, such as in a safe playard (like pack and play), and nurtured by their mothers are unlikely to be fussy or distracting to others in the office.

Unfortunately, not all employers see new children as a welcome addition to the workspace for a variety of reasons. Not all employment environments are suitable for small children; environments involving exposure to hazardous chemicals or other site risks can be dangerous to infant children. Some employers simply do not wish to have the liability of an unnecessary human on the job site. Some employers have insurance policies that prohibit anyone other than employees in the workspace. Other employers do not view the presence of children as anything more than a potential distraction.

If the employer does not wish for a new mother to bring her child to the job site, the employee has relatively few options for forcing the issue. Employers have no overarching legal obligation to allow children into the workplace. Employers in most states may terminate any employee for any legal reason, including bringing others into the workplace. Employers may act inconsistently or arbitrarily; if an employer allows one employee to bring a child into the workplace, he or she does not then have an obligation to allow everyone to bring their own children to work.

Changing Company Policy

Rather than risk termination by bringing the child into the workplace, employees should lobby to change the policy. If the employer has previously had problems with disruptive children or if the environment is wholly unsuited for a baby, the employer will likely not be receptive. However, employers without compelling reasons to deny the request may be receptive to arguments demonstrating the economic wisdom of changing the new policy.

Family friendly policies improve employee retention. Skilled employees are difficult to locate and even more difficult to train. Retaining a productive employee is generally less expensive than locating a replacement. By having a family friendly environment and setting organizational policies accordingly, employers can minimize the costs of hiring and training new employees. In difficult economic times, training budgets are often among the first things to be reduced. Allowing mothers to bring quiet children into the workplace is a free investment in improved morale and productivity, as mothers need not take sick days to address family issues.

Instituting a family friendly policy need not be expensive. Mothers can generally provide the materials necessary to care for an infant. However, employers with additional office space can be proactive in facilitating a family friendly atmosphere. By providing new mothers with a separate area for the infant to play, employers can take advantage of the economic positives of a family friendly policy while ensuring that the new mother remains focused on her essential duties.

A mother and former corporate news journalist, Ann Bailey provides these insights for other mothers returning to work after an all-to-short maternity leave. Having a clean and protective piece of equipment, such as a playard (like pack and play), enables caring for the infant at the office, and helps promote a peaceful, serene manner for the new parent to transition back to the working world.

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