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How pregnancy leads to opportunity at Hydro Karmøy

When Miriam Tangjerd became pregnant with her first child, she had to go on leave to avoid the powerful magnetic field in the electrolysis hall at Hydro Karmøy. But thanks to allocated resources and tailored measures, she can now continue working during her second pregnancy, while at the same time gaining expertise in other areas within Hydro.

"The last time I was pregnant, it was frustrating to be stuck at home throughout my pregnancy. Of course I want to continue in my job and be out among people like everyone else, until I actually have to go on maternity leave," says Tangjerd, who normally works as an operations manager in the technology pilot at Hydro Karmøy, one of Europe’s largest and most modern primary aluminium plants.

As a precaution, the plant’s electrolysis hall is off limits for pregnant women due to its powerful magnetic field. Until now, it has been common for female operators to go on maternity leave as soon as the pregnancy is confirmed, but now the aluminium plant is leading the way in terms of inclusion and adaptation of the working environment for pregnant women. Through individual adaptations, Miriam gets the opportunity to perform other tasks during pregnancy. This will also give her the opportunity to get to know new areas of the trade and acquire new skills, while shortening the leave period.

The adjustments come after Hydro Karmøy’s recent focus on the FiftyFifty program, which primarily centers on promoting diversity, inclusion and belonging in the workplace. The program responds to the growing awareness that gender inequalities are still widespread in society, including in working life. The aluminium plant at Karmøy also has its challenges in this field.

"We have not achieved all gender equality goals, despite our efforts. However, we are constantly working to change and adapt our business culture to create a more inclusive work environment, which I’m convinced will stimulate the well-being and productivity of our employees," says Arne-Martin Kjærland, plant manager at Hydro Karmøy.

In line with its focus on inclusion, Hydro Karmøy has earmarked resources to adapt the workplace to meet the needs of employees with health limitations. Already in 2019, a service department was opened at Hydro Karmøy for this purpose. A large part of the work involves mapping the residual work capacity of employees with special needs, but to reach the goal, actions are required.

"To move forward, we need to be aware of our own attitudes and behavior, and we need to understand why and how we want to change. But we want to take the lead by implementing concrete measures. For example, it is high time that we introduce adaptations for pregnant women who cannot perform their regular duties. This is good for them, it's good for us and it makes perfect sense from a socio-economic perspective," says Kjærland.

The project is still in its initial phase, but at Hydro Karmøy, several expecting mothers have already had the opportunity to try out new fields of work. Continuous efforts are made to identify the opportunities and tasks that can be offered across the plant. Transfers have already been executed to the service department, training department, HSE, as well as the technical and logistics department.

Miriam Tangjerd is one of the employees engaged in trying out these measures in practice. With a certificate of apprenticeship in logistics, she wanted to get an opportunity to work with logistics on the quay at Hydro Karmøy, where she stepped into a part-time position. This also helps her gain expertise in different areas across the plant.

"I really appreciate the opportunity I get to use my skills and develop in my role. My experience shows how important it is to accommodate pregnant women to attract female workers. The industry depends on recruiting both women and men to keep up,” says Tangjerd.

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Miriam Tangjerd together with Arne-Martin Kjærland plant manager at Hydro Karmøy