How and when do you tell your employer you’re pregnant?

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Future Starfleet Captain Maternity Tee from Think Geek.
Future Starfleet Captain Maternity Tee from Think Geek.
I just found out I’m pregnant! This news bestowed itself upon me in the form of two lines merely two days before I lost my job. Incidentally, I was between rounds of interviews for my next job, which I start next week. Now, as a newly unemployed pregnant woman facing the loss of half of our household income, I wasn’t about to tell my future employer the wonderful news — why give them reason to disqualify me?

I’ll be two months along when I start my job, and pretty soon it will become obvious that I am with child.

I have quite a bit of anxiety over how they might take the fact that I came on knowing I was pregnant. I also know it’s early enough to pretend like I didn’t know until after I started… but still, the thought of telling them I need to go on maternity leave seven months after starting my job terrifies me. I’ve been let go due to lack of work twice in the past year, so I’m scared. And now there’s an additional life counting on me.

How and when do you tell your employer you’re pregnant? -Kat

From preggos to employers, how and when, or do you tell your job that you’re pregnant?

Comments on How and when do you tell your employer you’re pregnant?

  1. Your situation is different to mine, but I told my employer around two and a half months in because I was flying somewhere with work and wanted to be sure travel insurance covered it. I received no backlash, but wasn’t expecting to as my employer is quite good about that kind of thing, and I have been there for a number of years. They were surprised to be told so early!
    In the UK, I believe in the general case there is no legal obligation to tell your employer until 15 weeks before your due date (though how they wouldn’t have noticed before then I don’t know!). However, if you work in environments that would be dangerous to continue in whilst pregnant (e.g. veterinary practices) I think you have to tell them and they have to provide a safe working environment for you or suspend you on full pay. I suspect that if you had very bad morning sickness you would also want to tell them – I think your statutory rights (e.g. for paid time off for antenatal appointments) don’t kick in until you have told your employer.
    I think the generally accepted wisdom seems to be to hold off from telling anyone outside of immediate family for the first three months as the chance of miscarriage is higher during that period, so I don’t think you would be out of line to wait at least until then to tell them.

  2. I’ve never been in your situation, but I would be just as concerned if I were you. Despite the fact that they can’t discriminate against you because of pregnancy, it’s still tough on employers and employees alike. But assuming you don’t work in an environment where pregnancy is a hazard and something you have to disclose, here’s my two cents…

    Don’t apologize. That’s the biggest thing. You’ve done nothing wrong, and no matter what anyone says, you have to remember that.
    Expect the best and prepare for the worst. Expect people to be happy for you and they likely will be. But if you start seeing any sign of discrimination, document the crap out of it. At worst, you may end up facing a wrongful termination lawsuit, and you want every piece of data you can get to back you up.
    Guard your information. When you decide to tell people, start with “I’m pregnant.” If you’re not comfortable sharing more than that, don’t. If people ask you when you found out you got pregnant, don’t feel like you have to say anything. Tell people it’s private. They’re not entitled to answers. That said, if they’re happy for you and you want to share info, do so.
    Don’t lie. Lies will probably bite you on the ass, and if your bosses or coworkers find out you lied, that won’t help establish trust and goodwill between y’all.

  3. One of my girlfriends was on a similar situation, and I believe she finally divulged the information around the 4 or 5 month mark. When she did finally tell her employer, she told them she had concerns about miscarriage and didn’t want to share the news too early in the event something happened. In her case she had previously miscarried around 18 weeks so she was conservative about sharing her pregnancy with anyone beyond family and close friends, but miscarriage is a real concern and many women choose not to share their pregnancy until after the 13 week mark as a result. If you feel a need to explain to your new employer why you didn’t what’s sooner, I think that’s a completely legitimate reason.

  4. If your company isn’t super small, see if you can talk to an HR person privately, just to get their opinion on the situation. You can still say you just found out, but express your concerns for the future. It’s their job to help you be comfortable in yours, and make sure that your boss doesn’t discriminate. Plus, it shows initiative on your part and that you want to work with the company to make things as smooth as possible for them and for you.

  5. Sadly, most places do not give you coverage for family leave until after one year of work. Read your employee handbook.

    No idea and good luck!

  6. Congrats on your pregnancy!

    One thing to be aware of, if you’re in the US, is that FMLA laws don’t kick in until you’ve been employed for a year – and if you’re working for a company with fewer than 50 employees, they don’t actually apply at all. Your state MAY have supplementary laws. (For example, I live in Oregon, and the OMLA waiting period is only 6 months.) That said, pregnancy is a protected class, and they legally cannot discriminate against you if you’re pregnant. (They can’t fire you for being pregnant, or put you on unpaid leave if there’s any work you could possibly be doing.)

    I second the previous poster’s suggestion to talk to HR, because they should know the relevant laws. (I’m not helpful beyond that, because I told my boss the Monday after I got two pink lines; I had an IUI and she was really excited for me.)

    • That sounds correct to me. And no, they cannot technically fire you for being prego, but they can fire you for some other seemingly random reasons that just so happen to become a problem after they realize that you are pregnant.

      • Unfortunately, this is accurate, and why I really hope you end up at a good employer. There are a lot of employers who don’t pay attention to laws, and/or don’t have good HR staff.
        I just happen to be an HR professional, and since if there’s not a safety reason to tell your employer, you really don’t have to tell them, I would say follow your gut feeling once you start working.
        At my last employer, the short-term disability benefit covered a certain numbers of weeks following-birth, which basically excused the absences. We had a great short-term disability administrator who didn’t allow stupid supervisors to hold pregnancy against the employees.
        Good luck!

  7. Oh man. I relate to this post so much. I’m a 31 yr old adjunct and newly minted PhD. I desperately want some of the full time jobs that are opening up at my school this year. I also really feel the biological clock ticking and want to start a family. I feel like I either go on the job market pregnant or I have to tell my employer that I’m pregnant after less than a year of full time work. Both scare me a lot. I feel like a Tina Fey character ranting about “having it all”. But, seriously, I want to. I have more empathy than good advice, sadly.
    But I would suggest documenting everything. Have the maternity leave conversation in email. Be sure that you have records of your work performance and your communication with your superiors. That way if things do go south, you at least have a leg to stand on when appealing things. I also find that employers are less prone to casual sexism when they have to write it down. They know you’re documenting it too. 🙂

    • Good idea about documenting everything. And, if possible, loop in HR and your bosses at the same times. HR will tell you how things really are and their company policies and state/federal laws (because they have to!) where as you boss may not realize the policies or laws if they have not dealt with the situations. For example, my husband’s boss told him they get no paid paternity leave and would have to use his 2 weeks of vacation for any time off. I made him talk to HR, and HR said that the company actually allows for 6 week of paid paternity leave! So, it’s definitely worth talking to HR and possibly copying your bosses on those emails.

    • I definitely agree about documenting everything. And if it seems awkward to try to have a conversation over email about maternity leave (if it’s more of a face-to-face office), have the conversation in person and then email a summary of everything that was decided. You can phrase it “to confirm I didn’t misunderstand anything we decided and so also I don’t forget.” It won’t seem as obviously document-ey then.

  8. Good luck! My co-worker and now friend applied for her job at our company when her baby bump had just started to show. When discussing her qualifications, a couple people did mention the impending maternity leave and were worried because we desperately needed someone to take on a lot of important, time-sensitive work. But she got hired because she was the best applicant and it all worked out. I hope it works out for you too! She proved to be a great worker and great mom!

  9. This is a tough one –
    First of all, are you in the USA? If so, your ‘protections’ might be a bit different than what the others have said. In the US, they ‘technically’ cannot discriminate against you because you are pregnant, but the reality of how that plays out might be different. As a new employee, are you on a probationary period (3-6 months usually)? If so, they can let you go during that time for essentially any reason (and they will probably come up with one before your expected probationary period is up or before your due date). Also, are you working in a state, company, or agency that has ‘at will’ employment? Meaning that they can fire you or you can quit for any reason at any time (you are not under contract or in a union)?? If so, they can find a reason to fire you. If they do, you can pursue unemployment or wrongful termination through your state department of workforce development (or similar agencies) or possibly disability insurance (if your previous or current new employer offers that). Also, if you want to use FMLA, you usually have to have worked for that company for 12 months or a certain amount of hours (1000??) before they have to give you job protected leave (meaning they will keep your job or a similar pay and stature job available for you when you return from leave) and 12 weeks of unpaid time . You will also want to look into weather or not the company offers leave time right away (or after a certain amount of working time) to see if you would be able to get paid for the time off (assuming they do allow you to take leave). You will definitely want to tread lightly with this and have discussions with HR shortly after telling your bosses. But, I would wait as long as possible to tell them so that you can keep your job and show you are a good employee! Do not spill the beans before you start or shortly after). Since this is a new company for you, and a new group of people, you may be able to pass for a longer time without people realizing you are pregnant (they will not know how you looked and acted before, so you can just pretend that you like to wear looser clothing and they may assume that you are a little plump, but not pregnant until it is really obvious). I have had friends/co-workers in this situation. What I have seen happen is that the person either gets let go shortly after the company finds out you are pregnant (for some seemingly random reason), they let you work until your due date or you deliver, then basically let you go and do not offer leave or job protection because you do not qualify for FMLA, or the person quits a short time before they are expected to deliver (no unemployment if you take this option). Fun times being pregnant and a new parent in the USA! Hope you can get some type of protections and leave time out of this job and that they do the ‘right’ thing for you.

    • While you can easily be let go during a probationary period or in an at-will state, in the US they’re still not allowed to fire you because you’re pregnant, probationary or not, since it’s a protected class. That being said, it’s usually pretty easy to find an alternate reason to get rid of someone. Another reason to document anything that sounds fishy if it does happen.

    • My friend went through three different jobs while pregnant and all of them found a way to let her go due to it but under the guise of her probationary period. She gave up looking for work til after the baby was born. It’s sad but that’s just the reality of it in the USA. You are better off sometimes just to wait it out.

  10. I’m not sure that Donteatmenoo’s recommendation to talk to HR privately is the best way to go. In many places, sure, HR wants to help you, but HR isn’t really there to make the employee comfortable, they’re there to make sure the employer doesn’t do anything illegal or that can get them sued. This means that HR is on your employer’s side, not yours, though they often do try to make the workplace better for employees.

    I’d recommend not talking to HR unless you need to file a complaint. HR is there to protect the company. Wait until you’ve decided how you want to handle everything (prenatal appointments, your plans for after the birth as far as taking time off and childcare, etc.). Have some serious conversations with a partner or anyone that will be involved in this kid’s life as far as care goes and make some decisions before you decide to tell your employer. And I’d definitely wait until you’re at least 12 weeks along, likely longer, so if something does go wrong you don’t have to deal with people who got the word that you’re pregnant but not if something happened. Unpleasant story illustrating the reason for this: A friend of mine at work had a miscarriage a couple of months along and had already told everyone. It was really hard for her to run into people that had heard she was pregnant and wanted to congratulate her and she had to tell people she lost the baby over and over when she was already emotionally compromised. And as much as it sucked, she didn’t enjoy the months of people feeling sorry for her and trying to tiptoe around any mention of kids when she was trying her best to just be professional.

    But if everything goes well (good, squishy baby thoughts to you!) you want to be ready to answer questions your employer will have, and they’ll want to know and plan for your maternity leave. When you talk to them (if it’s true) be sure to let them know how excited you are to have the job and get back to work as soon as the baby is settled (which can mean any amount of time, you don’t have to be specific yet).

    If you’re in the US, FMLA will protect your job for a while but I think you have to be in the job a year so that may not cover you. I agree with Cassie that you should “expect the best and prepare for the worst.” You’ll feel more confident about it all if you’ve thought about your options and done some research into how the law protects you in your state. And going in to tell your employer you’re pregnant when you already have a plan in place for postpartum (and the tough last couple months of pregnancy) will be less stressful than if you let it slip willy nilly.

    Be sure not to tell coworkers before you tell your boss, since these things generally get around very quickly no matter who is sworn to secrecy. You want to be the one to initiate the conversation, not the other way around. This means that you’ll need to be wary of adding people at work to social media if family and friends talk about the pregnancy there until you’re “out” at work.

    I just returned to work after maternity leave so I’ve had to do all the planning you’re now getting into. I can answer more questions if you like about what I learned.

    • My state offers 6 weeks (or 8, if a c section) of post partum disability leave (and, 6 weeks of pregnancy disability leave). Is returning to work while a baby is 6 weeks old realistic, for someone planning to breastfeed? Do day cares even take them that young?

      • I’m glad your state gives you time off! That really helps. A lot of daycares won’t take kids younger than 12 weeks, but there are certainly some that will, though you may have to look around for one. We had a really hard time finding a daycare for an infant since (in Oregon, not sure about other states) the max ratio in daycares is 1 caregiver to 4 infants, so the spots fill up really fast. I started calling places 4 months from when we needed the baby to start and got lucky getting her into a place in time (only because they had just started an infant program alongside their toddlers). I am on waitlists for a couple other places (you often have to pay to get on the list). One place, the one I really want to get into, has a waitlist out to September 2017! It’s insane. I recommend starting to find and tour places right now and get on waitlists immediately if the situation is the same where you are.

        As for going back to work at 6 weeks, it really depends on several factors. Plenty of people do it so it’s definitely feasible, but if at all possible, take a longer leave. I can only speak from my experience here, but I took three months and would really have loved 6. I was never the super maternal type but damn if it wasn’t hard to go back to work after hanging out with an amazing tiny person every day. And at 6 weeks postpartum I was still pretty deep in the hormones from birth, so not only would being away from the baby 9 hours a day have been really difficult, I was all over the place emotionally and would have ended up crying at work all the time. And I would have been way more exhausted than I am now (she’s 4 months old).

        I am breastfeeding and my work is incredibly wonderful about it. It’s a larger company and they have a lactation room where I can pump and they are fine with me taking the time to do it twice a day since I have to pump every four hours. At 6 weeks, I was having to pump every 2 hours, 3 max (I have had to exclusively pump since early on since she never could latch well and ended up with nipple confusion so she got angry when my breast didn’t give her milk as fast as the bottle). If you’re able to breastfeed, your baby will still be eating every 2 hours at 6 weeks, most likely. (Breastfed babies eat more often than formula fed.) And they can go through what’s called cluster feeding where they feed every 15 minutes or so for hours. Point being: you’re going to be pumping very frequently at work and not going to be sleeping much at home.

        Even if you can feed the baby, get him to sleep and go to sleep immediately (if you don’t need to shower or eat or do normal human things), you’re lucky to get 1.5 hours of sleep in a stretch before they’re up to eat again. That makes for not very deep, refreshing sleep. Our baby spent the first several weeks refusing to sleep absolutely anywhere but in someone’s arms, so even when she slept, I didn’t get to do more than doze slightly in a chair. I don’t want to discourage you from returning to work or breastfeeding, but you need to be realistic about how effective you will be if you go back that soon, both at work and at life (and the dangerous sleepy driving in between).

        We saved every possible penny through my entire pregnancy and did a lot of budget cutting so I could stay home as long as I did. I’m really glad we did; it was definitely worth it to get that bonding time. The baby sleeps about 3-4 hours at a stretch at night now if we’re lucky. Some kids sleep longer by this age, but some don’t.

        I have been really lucky because my husband has done as much as possible with baby care and house stuff even though he had to go back to work after a week. Having him take night baby duty on the weekends so I could sleep except for when I got up to pump made a big difference. My in-laws did a few hours of babysitting a couple of times a week so I could just sleep, too. I don’t know if you’ll have that kind of support, but it really helps.

        Some women are really happy to get back to work. I thought I would go crazy being at home, and while I had a hard time with regular house stuff like cooking and cleaning (which I basically just didn’t have time for caring for an infant), it was really hard for me to go back and miss so much time with her. I wouldn’t want to be a stay-at-home mom for years, just not my thing and I’d suck at it anyhow, but these first few months have seriously been precious to me. I’m really jealous of all the other countries that have real parental leave options for families.

        P.S. If you have a c-section (which I did unexpectedly), you’ll spend the first few weeks with extra pain and tenderness, which can add to the difficulty. You’re not supposed to lift anything bigger than your baby for that time, which means no big chores for you. It’s a great way to get out of yardwork. (Though I can’t pretend we did yardwork until last weekend for the first time.)

      • I work for the department that regulates daycare in my state, and they all will take kids at 6 weeks of age around here. Also, sometimes you can get a center to accept a younger child, if needed.

    • I agree about postponing the discussion with HR. HR may be a good resource once you’re ready to disclose the pregnancy to your boss, but if you tell them before then you can’t trust them to keep it confidential.

  11. I just counseled a friend through this (including the being laid off while pregnant) and I definitely agree with expect the best but prepare for the worst (by documenting everything). Wait until 12 weeks to tell them, be calm and don’t apologize for anything. You didn’t do anything wrong. Keep in mind that if they intend to employ you long-term, the 2-3 months you are missing for leave will seem like the blink of an eye, you plan to bring years of kick-ass awesomeness (and profit) to their company. In addition, any number of random things could happen that would make an employee suddenly miss lots of work, companies are used to dealing with this and expect it. If they do handle it badly, you’ll know that this isn’t a company you want to work for and it will be nearly impossible to be a working parent there in the long-term.

    All of this isn’t to say you won’t feel guilty, you probably will. Practice giving yourself a stern talking to. Something like this: “You are now in charge of supporting another life and your job is to do whatever it takes to keep you family happy, healthy and whole. The rest is secondary.” (Don’t tell your employer this!) I’m not saying that babies are more important than careers or anything like that, just trying to help you through the guilt I’ve seen friends go through.

    And btw, my friend who went through this, everything was totally fine. Her work was beyond understanding and continue to be super supportive!

  12. First, Congrats!!!

    Second, this sane thing happened to me this year! I found out I was pregnant, and the next week was offered an interview for my dream job. I actually debated telling them that I was pregnant during the interview. I ultimately didn’t for 2 reasons, 1. We weren’t at the 3 month mark and most parents we know have had an early pregnancy loss so I just wanted to be careful and 2. It’s illegal for them to not hire someone because they are pregnant.

    But once I did get into the second trimester I told my boss asap. I was vauge and tried to give the impression that it was unplanned and I didn’t Know when I signed my contract. But I did make it a pong to stress how much the job meant to me and that I was in it for the long haul. Then I busted my ass from August until my maternity leave in February so they wouldn’t regret hiring me. I actually just returned to work Monday and everyone was excited to see me and I got offered a contract for next year while I was on leave.

    So in a nutshell that’s my advice. Make sure your boss knows your are committed to this job when you tell them you are pregnant and with your actions between now and maternity leave. They hired you out of all the other applicants for a reason.

  13. I started a new job and found out I was pregnant about six weeks later. I shared right away because I immediately had an appointment with my ob, and a specialist because of my age and other health issues, and had a ton of bloodwork done the first couple weeks. I did it because I feel like it’s easier to be up front and to deal with it. If they decide to let me go, I’d rather know before I give them more of my time. That being said, we just hired a nice lady who is almost five months along, so it seems that they don’t have a problem with us pregnant ladies.

    • I also had to tell my boss that I was pregnant at about 8-9 weeks because I was pretty sick and missing work for it and appointments (no, I’m not dying – just pregnant!) but, I have worked here for a few years and they are very family friendly, so it worked out fine. But, I would not recommend that in this situation unless the person had to tell the employer.

  14. Ugh, I have been thinking about this a lot with a twist. The cost of childcare versus my non-profit salary makes it too expensive for me to return to my job full-time, particularly with all the overtime we’d have to pay. I might be able to work out something with them for part-time remote work but not sure how they’d feel about that.

    It’s a tiny org where I’m doing two people’s jobs, so I’m not worried about being fired but I’m still uneasy about it.

    • Since you’re doing two people’s jobs, could you leverage that for either a fat raise to make it worth it to work or getting to work remotely part- or full-time? Since you seem pretty indispensable, you probably have a lot of weight to throw behind either (or both!) requests.

  15. If you can afford it, and if you’re feeling particularly sassy, I might consider consulting with an attorney in your area who specializes in family law and employment law. Some attorneys offer free consultations, or will consider exchanging a couple of emails with you pro-bono. Attorneys are good at more than just solving disputes once they happen – they can usually help you know what your rights are. They might be able to give you some good tips about when and how to disclose your pregnancy to your employer, or they might be willing to draft a letter that you can present to your employer.

    Then, if your new employer reacts in a way that you don’t find desirable, (i.e., you get ‘let-go’) you can always turn to your attorney to help you make the most of the situation (and perhaps help your employer revise their sexist policies for the next pregnant woman who has to go through this kind of a situation.)

    I feel you. Seriously. I’m currently employed, and have already turned down a possible badass career change because my husband and I are ready to potentially start a family, and I don’t want to have the kind of conversation you’re talking about with a new employer. As if being pregnant isn’t already stressful enough for women.

    Best of luck and congrats! If you have a girl, I hope you get to tell her 25 years from now about how times were so different for women in the workplace in 2016.

  16. I went through almost exactly this…we’d been trying for a while, and I changed jobs and found out I was pregnant two days after starting. I waited a bit, I don’t remember exactly how long but I knew anyone who could do math would know when I got pregnant and I knew it looked suspicious that I’d hidden it during the interview process. Luckily my direct supervisor was great about it, but I got a lot of side-eye and backhanded comments from co-workers. As previous posters have said, hr was NOT in my corner and they were super super mean about it. I went to them on the early side to talk about my leave options, thinking it would be better for everyone to have a solid plan in place as early as possible, but I guess they did not appreciate that. I left that meeting in tears, they all but accused me of lying and assumed I was just using the job for the benefits, which, it being America, were very minimal. So, I pretty much avoided going back to HR for the duration of my pregnancy and worked it all out with my supervisor. But it just felt like pure trust that they believed I didn’t scheme and hide my pregnancy, and it definitely got weird with co-workers. Best of luck to you!!

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