How do I tell my employer about my pregnancy?
This article covers:
- When should I tell my employer/manager I’m pregnant?
- Who should I tell first?
- How to prepare for telling my employer/manager
- How to tell your employer/manager
Whilst there’s no guaranteed right way to announce your big news, 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 announcing your pregnancy you should aim to reassure your boss and colleagues of your continued professionalism and commitment. It is worth bearing in mind that this will be a transition for your employer and colleagues as well as for you.
Legally, you do not need to tell your employer of your pregnancy and intention to take maternity leave until the 15th week before your baby is due. 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.
- An employer’s specific duty of care for a pregnant employee does not come into effect until informed of your pregnancy.
- 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 does not know you are pregnant.
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. You need to 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.
Generally, it’s advisable to tell your manager first. Even the closest friend at work may make an unintentional comment that could reveal you are pregnant before you are ready for colleagues to know.
Telling your manager first will enable you to plan together how best to tell the other people you work with. It is 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.
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. Remember that there is specific legislation to ensure the health and safety of new and expectant mothers at work.
- Understand your organisation’s practices and policies, and your legal rights.
- Anticipate your manager’s reaction, especially if this is the first time your manager will have worked with a pregnant employee.
Preparing for the discussion presents you as professional and committed.
Before you arrange to meet up with your manager and inform them of your pregnancy try and assess beforehand 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.
- 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.
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, she or he 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.
Being professional and prepared will enable you to reassure your manager of your commitment and increase your ability to make a smooth transition.
- 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 in a calm and professional manner. 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. Although this is becoming increasingly rare 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.
The information within this article is taken from our booklet ‘Pregnancy, maternity and returning to work: An employee’s guide’. See also the accompanying booklet in this series ‘Pregnancy, maternity and returning to work: An employer’s guide’. Both booklets are available as document attached to this article.
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 Working Families helpline on: 0800 013 0313 or email: email@example.com.
Directgov, a UK government website, has information on pregnancy and maternity rights in the workplace.
Maternity Action, a national charity promoting the health and well-being of all pregnant women, their partners and children, has further information on maternity rights.
See also the benefits calculator, posted by Turn2us, a national charity which helps people to access the benefits which are available to them.