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Here’s How to Tell Your Boss You’re Pregnant




Written by:

Barbara Mighdoll

Describing the nerves and anxiety I felt before telling my boss about my first pregnancy is hard to put into words. The second time around, with a new boss at a different company, wasn't any easier. I couldn't shake the worry that announcing my pregnancy would stall my career progression, prevent a compensation increase or affect my perception as a leader within the company. Balancing my professional ambitions with impending motherhood was daunting. Plus, I stressed over how taking maternity leave would impact all of the aforementioned concerns.

Breaking the news to your boss about your pregnancy can feel terrifying. It's unsettling to think that sharing such a personal and happy moment could disrupt your professional path, fearing we could miss out on promotions or key projects because taking maternity leave might be seen as a lack of commitment. And then there's the very real worry about job security hanging over our heads.

In both of my experiences, I had male bosses—both founders of the companies where I worked. They were fathers to young children, yet neither seemed to take on the role of primary caregiver. I had a feeling that as a woman my announcement would be received differently compared to if I were a man sharing news of my wife's pregnancy. Adding to the uncertainty, neither company I worked for had clear maternity policies, nor a strong precedent for other women who had paved the way prior to me. This lack of clarity made it difficult for me to gauge what the company's expectations would be regarding my leave.

To hopefully ease some stress, here are my top tips for telling your boss you're pregnant.

Understand your company's maternity leave policy

This isn’t a post about how f*d up our parental leave protection policies are (or lack thereof) in the US. This topic alone gets me super aggravated and fired up.

But the fact of the matter is, we have the right to take time off for maternity leave. In most countries, there are laws in place that protect pregnant employees and provide a certain amount of paid (or unpaid) leave for new parents. It's crucial to understand your company's specific policy on maternity leave so that you know what to expect and can plan accordingly.

If your company doesn't have a clear policy in place, it's important to discuss with your boss and HR department what options are available for you. This will give you a better understanding of what type of leave you can take and for how long, as well as any benefits or support that may be offered during this time.

It's essential to familiarize yourself with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This federal law provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for specific medical and family reasons, including for the birth and care of your newborn. Not all employers are covered by FMLA, and there are certain criteria you must meet to be eligible. Understanding the ins and outs of FMLA can give you a clearer idea of your rights and help you navigate your maternity leave with confidence. 

In addition to federal FMLA, some cities and states have even better protection and policies, such as Paid Family Leave (PFL) in California which pays a portion of your salary and protects your job for up to 8 weeks.

Outside of FMLA and PFL, familiarize yourself with Short-Term Disability Insurance coverage. Through this policy you may qualify for some portion of your salary to be covered for 6 to 8 weeks post-delivery (8 weeks if you have a c-section, 6 weeks for vaginal delivery) and the last month of your pregnancy.

Some considerations you should have as your do your research:

  1. Am I ready to negotiate better leave, in time or with pay, if my company does not have a policy, or has a lackluster excuse for a maternity leave policy?
  2. How much time unpaid am I willing and able to take?

When anticipating maternity leave and upon your return, it's critical to be aware of your legal rights and protections as a working parent. This knowledge not only empowers you but also ensures you can advocate for yourself effectively in the workplace.

First and foremost, familiarize yourself with laws regarding workplace accommodations for nursing mothers. In the United States, for example, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to provide reasonable break times and a private place (other than a bathroom) for an employee to pump breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth.

Additionally, it's essential to understand your rights related to discrimination and harassment. Being pregnant, taking maternity leave, or pumping at work are not reasons for demotion, pay cuts, or negative changes in your job responsibilities. Laws such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act protect employees from being discriminated against due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

That said, know that this kind of discrimination happens ALL THE TIME, so it's important to document every single communication you have regarding your pregnancy and maternity leave to protect yourself should you need it. And know I’m sharing this advice with you as someone who was discriminated against.

When should you tell your boss and HR you're pregnant?

After going through a miscarriage around the 10-week mark, I felt extremely cautious about sharing the news of my pregnancy with anyone, especially my boss. However, in 2019, while working in an office, by the time I hit 13 weeks, my jeans were getting uncomfortably tight, I was barely passing for “bloated” and my boobs were noticeably larger. It became increasingly challenging to hide under oversized sweaters. As I began to feel more at ease and confident about my pregnancy, I felt the urge to share the news more openly, so I decided to tell my boss at that point. It was a slightly awkward conversation, but the highlight though was definitely pulling all my team members together and telling them the news.

With my second pregnancy, I decided to wait until I was further along before sharing the news. A few factors influenced this decision. First, I wanted to complete a full year in my job before revealing my pregnancy, which meant holding off until around 20 weeks. Second, I had an upcoming performance review and compensation discussion that I feared might be influenced (I’m pretty sure it would have) if I disclosed my pregnancy earlier. Fortunately, remote work made it quite convenient to conceal my pregnancy behind my computer screen. So, I waited until I felt ready to share this significant life update. But let me tell you, outside of the stress of telling my boss, sharing the news with my direct team was so wonderful – nothing beats completely catching them off guard by standing up with a full pregnant belly.

There are obviously a number of factors that play into your decision of announcing your pregnancy. Ultimately, there is no perfect time to share the news so it's crucial to trust your instincts and consider your unique circumstances when deciding when to share your pregnancy news. That said, I would wait until your risk of miscarriage decreases (although if you're having to take a ton of sick days to manage your pregnancy nausea then its better to share earlier than later), and as a leader in your company, you should ensure you are telling them with plenty of time to give yourself and your manager to plan for your leave and transition of projects/responsibilities. At minimum that means at least a full quarter’s notice.

Email, in-person, or Zoom: which is best?

I DON'T recommend revealing the news in an email or with a phone call. The best way to have this conversation is face to face, in person or over video call if you work remotely. This will allow for a more personal and empathetic discussion.

Handling reactions and questions

When you break the news about your pregnancy to your boss, remember, it’s completely normal to receive a range of reactions. Some might express immediate joy and support, while others may take a moment to process the information, especially if they're considering the implications for your role and the team. It's key to go into this conversation with an open mind without expectations.

Prepare yourself for questions that may come your way. These might range from logistical questions, like your expected due date and any preliminary maternity leave plans, to more detail-oriented questions about how your responsibilities will be managed during your absence. It's helpful to have thought about these aspects in advance, but it's also okay to not have all the answers immediately. A good approach is to express your commitment to managing the transition smoothly and suggest scheduling follow-up discussions to iron out the specifics.

In my experience, I've learned not to share the exact due date. No baby comes on time, and you may prefer to select an official leave date prior to your due date to give yourself some transition time to get in the right headspace before your birth. Instead, I recommend sharing an approximation such as the end of May, or mid-June. 

Template for how to tell your boss you're pregnant

If you're unsure how to start the conversation, here are a few templates you can use to structure your discussion:

  1. Start with a positive statement about how much you enjoy your work and value your relationship with your boss. For example, “I appreciate the support and guidance you've provided me during my time here.”
  2. Share your exciting news in a clear and direct manner. For example, “I wanted to let you know that I'm pregnant, due in [month], and I’d like to start working with you in [month] on a plan for my maternity leave”
  3. Address any potential concerns your boss may have, such as your availability or workload during your absence. For example, “I've given some thought to how my responsibilities can be managed while I'm on maternity leave, but need more time to understand our policies and our team objectives at the time I’ll be out in order to build a clearer plan”
  4. Offer to work together to create a plan for your time away and discuss potential solutions as next steps. For example, “I want to ensure a smooth transition during my absence and am willing to work with you to come up with a plan that works for both of us.”

How to tell your colleagues you're pregnant

Although your work BFF likely already knows the exciting news, it's important to now communicate with your colleagues and direct team now that your boss is in the loop of course! Here are some tips on how to share the news with your coworkers:

  1. Consider sharing the news in person, either individually or as a group, before making a formal announcement.
  2. Be prepared for different reactions and responses from your colleagues.
  3. Offer reassurance and let your colleagues know that you will have a plan in place for your time away, and if anyone will be impacted you’ll work closely with them on a transition plan.
  4. Be open to any questions or concerns your coworkers may have and address them with honesty and empathy.
  5. Consider sending out an email or slack announcement to those who may not be present during the in-person announcement.

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