HR Headaches: When and How Should I Tell My Employer That I’m Pregnant?

Sharing your pregnancy news with your boss and colleagues can be anxiety inducing. Here are some tips to guide you through the process.

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Tips for sharing pregnancy news at work — plus legal requirements and rights to know about

Even though women make up half of the labor market — and 85% of them will have children during their career — finding the right time, and the right way, to let your employer know that you’re expecting can be anxiety provoking. It can also feel like a challenging conversation to navigate. While it may seem like telling them as soon as possible is the most professional route, doing so might put you at risk of being overlooked for upcoming projects (even though this is discrimination). This can impact your professional development and your path towards promotions and raises.

On the other hand, employers may find that you sharing the news too late is unprofessional, as finding a temporary replacement and training them is a significant undertaking. However, this is an expected activity in any company employing people who may become parents. Waiting too long to start this process can cause undue stress that you can avoid with appropriate notice.

In short, you should balance the timing that works best for your career and is most respectful to your employer.

What are the legal requirements for notice and my legal rights?

There is no legal requirement that dictates when to disclose your pregnancy. However, some employees naturally feel anxious about when to share the news with their managers. Legally speaking, if your company is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, then you just need to request leave at least 30 days in advance before taking off to give birth.

That being said, it’s a good idea to let your manager know earlier than your last month of pregnancy. One reason to share that you’re pregnant earlier rather than later is that a study found that people who conceal it experience more anxiety when interacting with colleagues, compared with their counterparts who are open about it.

One reason to share that you’re pregnant earlier rather than later is that a study found that people who conceal it experience more anxiety when interacting with colleagues.

Legal rights

Moreover, you’re legally protected from discrimination: “The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment.”

Unfortunately, even though the law protects pregnant people from discrimination in the workplace, it still happens. More than 50,000 pregnancy discrimination claims were filed in the last decade. For example, if you tell your boss that you can’t lift heavy objects during your pregnancy, it’s their responsibility to make adjustments. Put differently, your employer has to make the same accommodations for you as they also would for workers with a disability.

There are steps you can take if you think you’re being discriminated against for being pregnant, including reporting the incident to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Fair Employment Practices Agencies, and ensuring you’re putting self-care first (taking sick days, for example). It’s important to put your health, and your baby’s health, first.

When should I tell my manager that I’m pregnant?

One concrete recommendation is to notify your employer at the end of the first trimester (12-13 weeks). Around this time, some women begin to show, and the risk of miscarriage is lower. Your manager will also appreciate the early notice since they’ll have plenty of time to discuss your leave, and work out a proper transition plan for your replacement.

There are instances where you may need to disclose your pregnancy earlier. This would be in cases where you’re feeling unwell early on, and need to take more time out of your day for doctor’s appointments, or if you’re experiencing significant morning sickness.

Timing is contextual for your working situation, but most women inform their manager towards the end of the first trimester.

Some women wait a little longer if an important decision is being made about their career at the company. For example, if you’re up for a promotion, you might want to wait until that decision has been made before telling your manager. While discrimination is illegal, you’ll never know for sure that your pregnancy wasn’t a factor in not receiving a promotion.

Timing is contextual for your working situation, but most women inform their manager towards the end of the first trimester.

How should I share the news?

It may be tempting to share your pregnancy with your work friends before your manager; however, it’s important to let your manager know first. You want to avoid them hearing about your pregnancy indirectly, from someone else.

When you are ready to share the news, make sure to schedule a time to have that conversation directly. Be sure to start on a positive note — by sharing that you’re pregnant, and your due date. You can then discuss the next steps for a handover plan, and training your replacement. Give your manager the opportunity to celebrate your happy news, while naturally flowing into a discussion about a transition plan. Confirm the details of your conversation in writing, via email, to ensure all parties are on the same page.

Knowing when to tell your employer about your pregnancy can be stressful. However, with 85% of working women having children at some point during their career, it’s far from a rare conversation. Know that you have protection from discrimination and any consequences for being pregnant. And, besides receiving congratulations, you should get exactly the same treatment as your fellow colleagues!

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