“I’m expecting” is usually happy news that you can’t wait to share! That is, of course, unless it’s happening at work.

Then, depending on your workplace culture and environment, the news can be met with anything from joy, to concern, to flat-out discrimination (which for the record isn’t legal). 

But it does make deciding when and how to tell your boss you’re pregnant potentially challenging.

And the truth is, there probably isn’t going to be a “perfect” time to bring your boss into the loop.

 

U.S. companies don’t have the best track record when it comes to maternity leave. Many women fear being treated differently once they break their pregnancy news to their employer.

 

Which makes when and how you choose to share your pregnancy a very individualized decision, based on a number of factors. 

To help, we put together a list of items to consider before deciding when to share your pregnancy news.

We also provide some helpful planning tips to make the conversation with your boss go a little more smoothly.

 

How To Tell Your Boss You’re Pregnant

 

When To Share The News

First off, we know you’re excited. We know you want to share the good news with your work BFF or your co-workers…but resist the urge and wait until after you tell your boss. 

Why? Because people are bad at keeping secrets, even if they have the best of intentions.

Pregnancy is legally a “disability” under the law. Even though that might sound a little awful, it means once you tell your boss you’re expecting, certain protections kick in under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).

If a co-worker spills the beans to management before you do, and your boss takes action against you, you may not be covered by the PDA. This is because “technically” you haven’t told management about your pregnancy.

 

Resist the urge to tell co-workers about your pregnancy until after you’ve told your boss or HR.

 

Plus, no boss wants to hear this kind of news through the grapevine before they hear it from you.  

So despite your excitement, try to bite your tongue until after you have a one-on-one with your manager. Or if you’re uncomfortable with that, then contact HR to get the process started.

 

Other Timing Considerations

As you think about when to tell your employer about your pregnancy, here are 6 things to consider.

1. Miscarriage Risk:

Many women want to wait until they complete their first trimester screen and the risk of miscarriage declines significantly. Or you may even want to hold out until the 4th month when your prenatal screening results are in.

This may be preferable than sharing the news and then having to handle the emotional burden of telling colleagues you miscarried.

2. Your Symptoms:

If you are having a particularly rough pregnancy marked by severe nausea, vomiting and/or severe fatigue you may want to share your news a little earlier so people can be more accommodating and understanding.

3. Your Job Role:

Do you have a strenuous or extremely stressful job? Does your job potentially expose you to any chemicals or toxins?

If yes, you may need to let your boss know sooner rather than later so accommodations can be made to protect you and your baby. Some of your job responsibilities may need to be adjusted.

4. Your Workplace Culture:

How family-friendly is your company? Do they have a paid maternity leave program? What was the experience of other pregnant women in your office when they made their announcement?  

If you think your news may trigger a negative reaction, proceed more cautiously. You might want to wait until weeks 14-20 (assuming you are not showing).

A confidential consult with HR to understand your rights and protections might also be advisable before approaching your boss.

5. Your Bump:

Some women show earlier than others. If you think you are starting to show noticeably, you may want to let your boss in on the secret before the rumor mill does it for you.

6. Pending Reviews and Projects:

Do you have a big performance or salary review coming up? Are you about to close a big deal or project?

If yes, and you’re afraid your pregnancy announcement might (negatively) influence your results, you might want to wait until after the review or deal is done to share your news.

 

Preparing For “The Talk”

You’ve figured out the when (gulp!).  Now it’s time to do a little homework before moving on to how to tell your boss you’re pregnant

It’s important to research and understand your rights prior to meeting with your boss because sadly, not every manager is fully versed in company policy and/or state law.

Plus, a little pre-work on your part can help a potentially panicked boss take step back from the ledge and smooth the transition period before your maternity leave.

The Insider’s Guide To Maternity Leave is one good resource to check out.

 

What You Should Know Before Going In

Before actually meeting with your boss, you want to understand your pregnancy rights at work. Here are 6 things you want to know.

1. Company Leave Policy:

Dig out that dusty old employee handbook (it’s probably hiding under your desk) and be sure you fully understand your company’s family leave policy.

Some companies offer paid leave, some do unpaid, some allow you to use your sick/vacation time. You need to know what you can and can’t do, so you can fully explore your options.

If you have questions, reach out to a seasoned HR staff member who can walk you through the process (confidentially).

2. Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA):

Get familiar with the PDA. This act protects you against things like job bias, discrimination, demotion, or being laid-off or fired due to your pregnancy.

3. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA):  

You should also know the FMLA. If you and your company meet certain requirements, you are guaranteed at least twelve weeks unpaid leave under FMLA.

4. State-Specific Pregnancy Protections: 

Some states have laws that are more generous than the FMLA (18 states at last count).  Be sure you know your individual state’s benefits and protections.

5. Leave And Return To Work Dates:

Once you know your state and company leave policies, you should also know how much notice you need to give for when you plan to start your leave. 

Pregnancy timelines are notoriously difficult to predict, but be prepared with a best guess for your leave start and end date.

Know that this timeline may shift once your baby is actually born.

6. Transition/Coverage Plan:

Once you share the news, it’s possible your boss may panic thinking about all the projects you’re responsible for. 

Anticipate this, and come up with a coverage plan for while you’re out.

Having options and solutions ready ahead of time can help smooth out a stressful conversation.

 

Getty Images

 

Planning The “How”

You’ve determined the when, you’ve done your preparation and homework… now you’re officially ready to have THE TALK.  

Take a deep breath and get ready to go in!

Here are four tips for how to tell your boss you’re pregnant.  Keep them in mind when approaching your boss to share your news.

1. Schedule A Meeting:

Don’t do it on the fly, or when your boss is otherwise distracted. Set aside a specific time and place to have this important conversation.

2. Stay Positive:

Don’t break bad news, share good news!

In other words, don’t frame your pregnancy as a burden, obstacle or inconvenience that needs to be overcome.

Make it a positive event and your boss will likely see it that way too.

3. Know Your Boundaries:

You want to be flexible and open to (some) compromise, but know where your hard boundaries are and stick to them.

Don’t let your boss guilt you into doing something you don’t want or have to do.

4. Get It In Writing:

Once you’ve had the conversation, document everything in writing and be sure HR is in the loop as well.

You don’t want there to be any misunderstanding or confusion later on.

 

If It Doesn’t Go Well

Hopefully you and your boss will be able to agree on a maternity leave plan that works for both of you.

If, however, you receive criticism or feel as though you’re being treated differently after revealing your pregnancy, report the discrimination in writing to your HR Department.

If HR does not fully address your issue, you can also file a discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In an extreme case where you’re demoted, laid-off or fired after announcing your pregnancy, you may want to consult with an attorney.

 

Planning how to tell your boss you’re pregnant doesn’t have to be stressful. With a little research and a solid game plan, you can make this potentially challenging conversation go more smoothly.

After all, having a baby is exciting news! We hope your boss sees it that way too.

 

Related: When And How To Tell Kids Your Pregnant

 

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