We know how nerve-wracking and complicated the process of telling your manager that you’re pregnant can be. When you’re expecting a baby, it can feel like the entire world is waiting for you to announce the news. If you’re unsure when to tell your boss you’re pregnant, know that there are three major things to consider before sharing the news with your manager and work team.
It’s understandable that some people don’t want to share this news with their boss, especially if they’ve heard horror stories from other moms or if they’re nervous about how it will impact their career. But there are many reasons why telling your manager about your pregnancy is important — and why doing so early on is actually beneficial for both parties. But if you’re worried about how your manager will react, it can be tempting to keep the news to yourself – at least until your second trimester. It is hard to know when it is safe to share your pregnancy, but there are three major things to consider before you tell your boss you’re pregnant.
Consideration #1: Know your employee rights and benefits.
As an employee at a company that offers maternity leave and other parental benefits, there are certain rules and regulations that govern when you must notify them of your pregnancy. Some states require employers to offer paid time off (PTO) for employees who are adopting too. If your company has a policy of job protection during maternity or parental leave, be sure to review it thoroughly before deciding When to tell your boss you’re pregnant.
You may be aware of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows you to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave for pregnancy or other family reasons. But there are also other laws that protect your rights as a new parent in the workplace.
The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. It also requires employers to treat pregnant women the same as any other temporarily disabled employee, such as those who take leave for an injury or illness.
In addition to the pregnancy discrimination act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is another law that protects employees with disabilities from discrimination at work. Under this law, an employer cannot refuse to hire or fire someone because of their disability; however, it does not require an employer to provide special accommodations for disabled employees unless they have been able to show that doing so would be “reasonable.” A pregnancy isn’t automatically considered a disability, so in order to seek protection from this act your doctor would likely need to show documentation of a health complication that would render you or the baby disabled. The act can help, however, if you need to change work location, type of labor performed, shifts, or physical space accommodations, as a result of a complicated pregnancy or birth.
Be well versed in your rights and your company’s HR regulations, including the pregnancy discrimination act, before you share your big pregnancy news with your boss.
Consideration #2: Think about your work environment.
If you’re in a male-dominated industry, it could be difficult to tell your boss that you’re pregnant — on both a personal and institutional level. If he or she is someone you’re close to — perhaps even someone you consider a mentor — it might feel more natural to share this news early on, even if it means risking being outed before you want to be. If you’re worried about your boss’s reaction, be prepared to answer questions about your timing, when you plan to return to work, and what accommodations you’ll need during your pregnancy. Walking in with a plan is key to a successful outcome When you tell your boss you’re pregnant.
You may want to talk with other employees who have been pregnant at work before making the decision. They can tell you how their supervisors reacted and whether the company has any policies supporting working moms-to-be.
Your boss’ temperament is another important factor in deciding when to tell them about your pregnancy. For example, if your manager is known for being overly emotional or difficult to please, it might be best to tell them about your pregnancy with another person present who can act as a buffer. That might be a skip manager, another mom on your team, or an HR professional. If your boss is just prickly, there may never be an ideal time to tell your boss you’re pregnant, but you should do it when the outcomes will be best for you.
Think about your work environment as well. If the company is in the throes of layoffs, you may want to better understand where you fall in the pecking order before making your announcement. Even if managers are well-intentioned, some may change how they work with you or assign work to you. Some qualify as pregnant discrimination under the terms of the pregnancy discrimination act. Being passed up for physical labor, travel opportunities, or more demanding projects are things many women report after announcing their pregnancy in the office. Consider timing your notice until after you’ve already taken advantage of the opportunities you’re prepared to take or, if you can wait that long, until after the end of a promotion cycle.
Consideration #3: Your health really matters.
Last, but not least, your health will affect your timing.
Pregnancy is a personal and private matter. But it’s also an important part of your professional life, especially if you plan to continue working after having children.You may feel like you should wait until you’re well into your pregnancy before sharing the news with your boss or colleagues. But that can be risky – if something goes wrong during the early stages of your pregnancy or if you need accommodations at work, it’s good to have a supportive supervisor on your side. Also, if you’re “hiding” your pregnancy at work, that can add unnecessary stress throughout the most important early months of the baby’s development. If you work around hazardous chemicals or equipment, you will need to minimize exposure—for your sake and the baby’s. The same is true for professions that entail altitude or oxygen-level changes. The more dangerous your line of work, the earlier you likely need to tell your boss that you need to make a shift.
That said, many people downplay pregnancy as “not an illness.” Sure, you’re not sick, but your body is creating human life and that sure is taxing. Many moms report low iron, fatigue, body pain, trouble controlling urine or stool, poor concentration, swelling in the extremities, memory loss, and an entire slew of other concerning symptoms. Although they may be temporary, these pregnancy systems can be very disruptive and severe. If you’re experiencing anything of the sort, you’ll want to warn others around you every day that you’re just not feeling well. If it is ongoing, that’s probably when it is best to tell your boss you’re pregnant.
Your health is the most important thing. Your first trimester is when most miscarriages occur and when women are most susceptible to complications like blood clots or preeclampsia (high blood pressure caused by pregnancy). If you are experiencing any of these complications, disclose your conditions appropriately and right away to your boss and HR, so that you can be sure to have the safest pregnancy possible.
Taking care of yourself may mean taking extra time off from work when you need it, staying hydrated, working remotely, eating healthy foods on a set schedule, asking for help with work tasks, and taking care of your mental health. If there are ways to do this at work without disclosing the pregnancy, then great! But, if not, it’s probably time to tell your boss. After all, a well-supported mom has lower stress levels and is much more likely to have a healthy pregnancy and birth.
If you have any health conditions while you’re pregnant, be sure to disclose them to your employer so they can help accommodate you as much as possible.
If you have a history of depression or anxiety or other mental health issues, it’s especially important to disclose these conditions in case they flare up during pregnancy or postpartum. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about it with your boss, consider reaching out to HR about the options available for mental health issues in the workplace.
With a doctor’s note or prescription, you may be able to get an accommodation without explaining why, but if the condition is expected to affect you for years, then it’s best to play it straight with your supervisor and galvanize their support for a sustainable solution for everyone.