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America must resolve to protect pregnant women in the workplace in 2020

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The limited and inadequate benefits offered to pregnant women by employers are discouraging. The federal government and the private sector can and must do better. The start of a new year brings with it a fresh opportunity for the United States to get this right. We must not miss this opportunity; we owe it to families to standardize protections for all pregnant women working in the United States.

It’s clear we need a federal solution that protects pregnant women, rather than the current patchwork of ineffective state-based regulations that aren’t working for most women and only benefit some pregnant employees. The passage of the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act (PWFA) — introduced early last year — would change that. The bill is a necessary step toward giving working parents in the US the support they need for the most important job they have — parenthood.

The House Education and Labor Committee is scheduled to consider this legislation soon, an important step to bringing this much-needed legislation to a full House vote for passage.

While we await a federal mandate, the onus is on companies to step in and close the gap. Protecting the economic security of pregnant women and their families enhances employee recruitment and retention and upholds the fundamental value of supporting families. In addition to XPO, eleven leading companies — including Adobe, L’Oreal USA, Microsoft, Levi Strauss & Company and Spotify — have committed to “working to ensure that working women and families have the protections and opportunities they need to participate fully and equally in the workplace.”

At XPO, we’ve reconsidered our own practices and made significant updates to our benefits. Most notably, a year ago we introduced a stand-alone pregnancy care policy for our nearly 50,000 US colleagues at all levels of our company. Recognizing that pregnancy is a natural part of life and not a disability, we no longer accommodate pregnancy under the category of disability. Instead, our stand-alone pregnancy policy ensures pregnant colleagues receive the accommodations they need to support a healthy pregnancy. This is part of a broader set of offerings that helps our working parents and includes access to 24/7 virtual clinic services from pre-pregnancy planning, all the way through to return-to-work support.

Over the past year, XPO has granted approximately 500 pregnancy-related accommodations. These accommodations range from increasing the frequency of breaks and scaling back work hours, to changing job duties and working from home. The great majority of these accommodations are being granted to women who are hourly workers in our logistics facilities. Our experience over the past year demonstrates that adopting a freestanding pregnancy policy is an achievable standard of practice for companies operating in the US, including those with a significant hourly workforce.

That’s why we’re calling on Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act in 2020. Until it does, companies themselves need to step up because fairness for pregnant employees in America is long overdue.

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