Notifying Work of Your Pregnancy
Maternity benefits vary between employers. If you were given a packet describing your position and benefits when you were hired, there should be some information in there to get you started. If you work at a company that is supported by a Human Resources Department, then you can find additional information about your maternity leave options by contacting your HR representative. If you are concerned that this information will not be kept confidential, even though it should be, make your inquiry without revealing that you are currently pregnant.
When should I let my employer know?
It is common for expectant women to wait until they enter their second trimester before they reveal that they are pregnant. This is mostly due to the fact that the risk of miscarriage decreases significantly after the first trimester. You can wait until you are about 14-20 weeks along if you wish, but remember, it's always best to let your employer know before you start showing.
Even though it can be anxiety provoking to share this good news at work, there can be several benefits to letting everyone in on your little secret, especially if you have a particularly stressful or physically demanding job. The sooner you let your boss know, the sooner you can start adjusting your responsibilities to protect the healthy development of your baby. For instance, if you are exposed to hazardous chemicals in a medical lab, or work at a nail salon or dry cleaner, it is important to reduce your exposure to the chemicals as soon as possible.
Also, if your pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea and fatigue, are impacting your work performance, ability to show up on time, or overall attendance, your employer will probably be thankful to have an explanation for your change in behavior.
The Power of Timing
Timing can make a big difference. If your work environment is supportive of pregnancy, then you may feel comfortable telling them right away. However, the culture of some companies may be less than supportive of pregnancy or maternity leave. If this is the case, think strategically. If you are up for a performance review or about to receive a raise, you may want to wait. You will also want to demonstrate, to the best of your ability, that you are still a valuable part of the team regardless of whether or not you are pregnant. If you have recently received a positive performance review or if your team has successfully completed a project, it may be a smart time to share your news. In this way, they will see that your value as an employee has not been affected by your pregnancy.
The Value of Female Co-Workers
If you are having trouble deciphering your company's maternity leave policy even with the help of HR, you may want to seek out another female employee who you are comfortable speaking with and who has had children while working at your company. They may not only provide you with helpful advice in terms of planning for your maternity leave, but they may also have some helpful tips on how to break the news. Gather as much information as you can and start planning.
Handling Negative Feedback
Sometimes bosses can be less than excited, to put it nicely, when you inform them of your pregnancy. Co-workers can be disgruntled if they anticipate they will have more responsibilities as your pregnancy progresses. We can't always control how other people respond, but we can control how we react. It's best to handle these experiences in a professional manner, no matter how unreasonable they seem to be. You can always return to HR or contact your union if things get too difficult. If you are laid off or fired, you may need to consider hiring a lawyer to represent your case. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against pregnant women under the aptly named Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
What if I decide not to return to work after my baby is born?
It is impossible to predict how you are going to feel after your baby is born. Some women who couldn't imagine giving up their careers to be stay-at-home moms find that nothing has ever made them as happy as staying at home with their child. Other mothers who were looking forward to perhaps a couple years off can't wait to get back to the office or start looking for work as soon as they can. The point is to keep your options open if you can. Planning to quit your job as soon as your baby is born, even if you think it is what you may want, might not be as good an option as going on maternity leave and allowing yourself some time to decide whether or not you want to return.
Conversely, if you are on maternity leave and your heart is breaking at the thought of returning to work, consider your options. Take a look at your budget. How flexible is your job? Can you negotiate to work from home some days? It can be hard to leave your infant for sure, but if you ask yourself these crucial questions and speak openly and honestly with your partner about how you are feeling, the right path will become clear.