pregnancy at work

Should you do it by email? In person? Do you need to involve HR? Here are the answers to your most pressing questions

For some women, sharing the news that they’re going to have a baby with their employer can be loaded with nerves. You may be worried about the implications for your job and career or concerned about your employer’s reaction.

But stop. The fact that you want a family has – or should have – no bearing on your career. And you have rights that make that clear (Gov.uk, 2019). It’s also important to understand what your employer’s responsibilities to you are. Here is what you need to know…

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

Legally, you don't need to tell your employer about your pregnancy or maternity leave until the 15th week before your baby is due (Gov.uk, 2019; Maternity Action, 2019a). But you might want to do it after the first trimester, once you’ve had your first scan (and start having a more obvious bump).

It’s completely your call though, so if you want to share earlier, feel free. And there are some benefits to telling your employer sooner rather than later (see below).

What do you need and get from your boss and workplace when you’re pregnant?

  • Maternity leave: your boss can give you information on how that will work (Gov.uk, 2019; Maternity Action, 2019a).
  • Paid time off for your antenatal care, including appointments and classes recommended by a doctor or midwife. You’re entitled to all of this but your employer can ask for proof of appointments (Gov.uk, 2019; Maternity Action, 2019a).
  • Support if your pregnancy is difficult or you have sickness. Your employer can help manage your workload (Gov.uk, 2019; Maternity Action, 2019b).
  • Workplace risk assessment: once they know you’re pregnant, they have to make sure your workplace is safe for you. If it isn’t, they’ll need to make necessary improvements, or provide you with alternative work for the same pay. They must also keep health and safety risks under review throughout your pregnancy (HSE, 2019).

Is there any danger that because I’m pregnant, I’ll be treated badly?

No. Actually, once your employer knows you’re pregnant, you’re protected against unfavourable treatment because of pregnancy-related discrimination (Maternity Action, 2019c). Your employer must record any pregnancy-related sickness separately so that it isn’t used against you in any disciplinary, redundancy or dismissal decisions (Maternity Action, 2019b).

Do I have to tell my employer in writing or on email that I’m pregnant?

Whenever you tell your boss that you’re pregnant, if you want to take maternity leave or claim Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) you should notify your employer in writing. Tell them the date you want to start your leave and maternity pay by the end of the 15th week before your baby is due (Gov.uk, 2019; Maternity Action, 2019a).

Who should I tell first about my pregnancy at work?

As much as you might want to tell your best work pals your news, it’s a good idea to talk your manager first.

Your maternity leave may require handovers or decisions that are best managed before news gets out. And if you have any worries about telling your boss, do feel free to go via HR so you have some back-up.

What if my employer reacts badly to my pregnancy?

What if your pregnancy is met with a ‘less than enthusiastic’ response? Or your manager is genuinely happy for you but concerned about how your maternity leave will affect the business? Whatever the reaction, remember that you have a right to a career and a family. And you should never be made to feel bad about juggling the two. There is also lots of advice and information to help you tackle any negative reactions or treatment because of your pregnancy (Maternity Action, 2019c).

Is there anything else I should keep in mind when speaking to my employer about being pregnant?

There are some things that it’s useful to keep in mind when you go for ‘the chat’. Some stuff to think about is:

  • Your career goals and aspirations.
  • Your organisation’s maternity and shared leave practices and policies. It’s useful to be informed yourself.
  • Your legal rights.
  • Your options for flexible working.
  • Dates for practical arrangements, e.g. due date, antenatal appointments, dates you’d like to start leave.
  • Annual leave and when you’d like to take yours before the baby comes.

It’s a good idea to put all of this in writing so that you know what has been agreed afterwards too. Good luck.

This page was last reviewed in September 2017.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

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.

GOV.uk. (2019) Pregnant employees' rights. [Accessed February 2019: https://www.gov.uk/working-when-pregnant-your-rights]

Maternity Action. (2019a) Pregnant at work. [Accessed February 2019: https://www.maternityaction.org.uk/advice-2/mums-dads-scenarios/pregnant/pregnant-at-work/]

Maternity Action. (2019b) Sickness during pregnancy and maternity leave Maternity Action. (2019) [Accessed February 2019: https://www.maternityaction.org.uk/advice-2/mums-dads-scenarios/pregnan…]

Maternity Action. (2019c) Dealing with problems at work [Accessed February 2019: https://www.maternityaction.org.uk/advice-2/mums-dads-scenarios/pregnan…]

Health and Safety Executive (HSE). (2019) Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSW). [Accessed February 2019: http://www.hse.gov.uk/mothers/law.htm]

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