Pregnancy tip

An employer’s specific duty of care for a pregnant employee does not come into effect until informed of your pregnancy.

Telling your employer you're pregnant

Here we offer information on telling your employer you’re pregnant, and how and when you can do it.

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For some women, telling your boss that you're pregnant can be difficult. Whilst there’s no 'right' way of telling your employer you're pregnant, there are a number of things you can do to increase a positive response and build a firm foundation for a smooth return to work after your maternity leave.

When should I tell my employer I’m pregnant?

Legally, you don't need to tell your employer of your pregnancy and intention to take maternity leave until the 15th week before your baby is due, regardless of where you work. Many women announce their pregnancy at the end of the first trimester (at about 12 weeks), as at this time the risk of miscarriage is greatly reduced and a growing bump may not be easy to hide.

There are various benefits to telling your employer sooner rather than later:

  • The more planning and preparation you (and your employer) do before you leave the easier both of you will find it when you return. For example, it’s a good idea to plan your annual leave well in advance.
  • An employer’s specific duty of care for a pregnant employee does not come into effect until informed of your pregnancy. You must notify your employer in writing if you want your employer to take action to deal with health and safety issues.
  • Once your employer knows of your pregnancy you are protected against unfavourable treatment because of pregnancy-related discrimination.Your employer must record any pregnancy-related sickness separately so that it is not used against you in any disciplinary, redundancy or dismissal decisions.
  • You are entitled to reasonable paid time off for your antenatal care, including classes recommended by a registered medical practitioner. Your employer can ask for proof of the appointment for all except the first appointment
  • An earlier announcement will enable all those involved to support you and the operational requirements of your organisation.

If your pregnancy is difficult or you are experiencing issues with morning sickness, or require time out of the normal work schedule for antenatal appointments, the right level of support may be difficult to arrange if your employer doesn't know you are pregnant.

It is important to tell your employer of your pregnancy so that your employer can consider the workplace risk assessment and any specific risks to new and expectant mothers. In order to get health and safety protection you must tell your employer in writing that you are pregnant. Your employer should take reasonable action to remove any health and safety riskssuch as altering your working conditions or hours of work, for example, ensuring that you do not do any heavy lifting or carrying, that you have an opportunity to sit down and that you have adequate breaks. If risks remain, your employer must offer you suitable alternative work on the same terms and conditions. If there is no suitable alternative work you are entitled to be suspended on full pay for as long as the risks remain. Your employer must keep health and safety risks under review throughout your pregnancy.

Regardless of when you announce your pregnancy verbally, if you wish to take maternity leave or claim statutory maternity pay (SMP) you need to notify your employer in writing of the date you want to start your leave and wish to claim SMP by the end of the 15th week before your baby is due. If you are claiming SMP you must provide proof of your pregnancy in the form of a MAT B1 certificate signed by your midwife or doctor. The MAT B1 certificate is usually not available until after week 16 of your pregnancy.

You continue to accrue annual leave during your maternity leave so you may return to work with a lot of annual leave owing to you. There are a number of options you could consider, such as giving notice to end your maternity leave early (you need to give eights weeks’ notice if you’re not taking all of your maternity leave) and taking some paid annual leave or using your annual leave to create a phased return to work e.g. two days off per week. You must agree any annual leave with your employer in the usual way. You cannot carry annual leave forward into a new leave year unless your employer allows it so it’s a good idea to plan when you are going to take your leave so that you don’t lose it. 

Who should I tell first?

Generally, it’s advisable to tell your manager first. Even your closest friend at work may make an unintentional comment that could reveal you're pregnant before you're ready for colleagues to know.

Telling your manager first will enable you to plan together how best to tell other people you work with. It's absolutely fine to ask your manager to keep this information confidential until the time is right to tell other people. Depending on your role, your upcoming maternity leave may require a planned handover of relationships with customers, clients or suppliers in a way that does not impact the operation of the organisation.

If you anticipate a negative reaction from your immediate manager, it may be better to inform your employer earlier, in confidence via the Human Resources department.

How to prepare for telling your employer/manager

The more you prepare the easier it will be to tell your employer. Good preparation and planning also helps to present you as professional and committed.

  • Talk to your GP or midwife about when it might be best to start maternity leave. The earliest you can start your leave is 11 weeks before your expected week of childbirth. It is up to you to decide when you want to start your maternity leave.
  • There is specific legislation to ensure the health and safety of new and expectant mothers at work. You must tell your employer in writing that you are pregnant if you would like your employer to make changes to your working conditions or hours of work because of health and safety risks.
  • This website gives information on your  legal rights but your employer may offer better terms and conditions so ask for your employer’s maternity policy or staff handbook..
  • Anticipate your manager’s reaction, especially if this is the first time your manager will have worked with a pregnant employee. If you work for a small employer or an employer who has not had many pregnant employees it might help to provide them with information on your legal rights. The organisations below give advice and information to employers as well as employees.

Preparing for the discussion presents you as professional and committed.

How to tell your employer/manager

Before you arrange to meet up with your manager and inform them of your pregnancy try and think beforehand about what type of relationship you have with them.

  • Anticipate their concerns and be prepared to talk about them, for example, how pregnancy and maternity leave will affect your job.
  • Know your goals and career aspirations.
  • Know your key achievements and demonstrate your value.
  • Understand your organisation’s practices and policies.
  • Understand your legal rights. Get information for your employer so that they know your rights too.
  • Be prepared to discuss your options for flexible working and ask how it could affect your job and career in the future.
  • Know (or have an idea of) your important dates, such as your baby’s due date, dates of antenatal appointments and dates for maternity leave as well as your qualifying week (the 15th week before expected week of childbirth [EWC]).
  • Agree dates to create a handover plan, keep in touch plan, performance review and back to work plan.
  • Agree dates for annual leave. It’s a good idea to put it in writing so that you know what has been agreed. 
     

Concerns

Women who have worked hard to climb the employment ladder may be concerned about getting less challenging projects, particularly if partnership is a career ambition.

Organisations should understand the strong business case for employing women at all levels and work hard to build a culture that is inclusive. Occasionally, announcing pregnancy can be met with a less than enthusiastic response. Whilst your manager may be genuinely happy for you, they may be concerned about meeting operational requirements and possible impact to the business, especially if this is the first time they have managed maternity leave. All employers are reimbursed all of the Statutory Maternity Pay paid out and can get help and information from the organisations below.

Being professional and prepared will enable you to reassure your manager of your commitment and increase your ability to make a smooth transition.

Tips

  • DO plan how to communicate your pregnancy to the different people you work with.
  • DO anticipate concerns and be prepared to talk about handover plans. At all times reassure those you work with of your commitment to the organisation, its goals and your own role objectives.
  • DO be assertive about unwanted attention; some women experience unsolicited petting of their growing bump, if you do and this makes you feel uncomfortable then let people know. Continued unwanted attention focussed on your pregnancy could be considered harassment or discrimination. Be clear with your colleagues and others you work with if they make you feel uncomfortable.
  • DO be prepared for comments about lack of commitment and changing values. Unfortunately, you may still experience some comments about your commitment. Be prepared with an answer that reassures people of your commitment to the organisation and its goals and your specific role objectives. Write it down and practice it so that you don’t have to think about it if the situation arises.

Page last updated: May 2016

Further information

If you feel that your organisation is treating you badly because you have informed them that you are pregnant, then free legal advice and support is available from the following organisations:

Equality and Human Rights Commission Toolkit for Employers.

Equality Advisory Support Service advice on discrimination and human rights 0808 800 0082

HM Revenue & Customs Helpline for employers on statutory pay: 0300 200 3200

Maternity Action helpline:0845 600 8533. Information on maternity rights 

Working Families helpline: 0300 0120312or email: advice@workingfamilies.org.uk.

Gov.uk, a UK government website, has information on pregnancy and maternity rights in the workplace.

See also the benefits calculator, posted by Turn2us, a national charity which helps people to access the benefits which are available to them.