This article was originally published in The Huffington Post
Congratulations! You are expecting a baby. Whether it was planned or unexpected, whether it’s your first baby or the fifth one, each woman experiences a surge of emotions on finding out the news. Among many other things that are involved in the preparation for the baby’s arrival, breaking the news to your boss is one which requires a lot of deliberation.
You should be thrilled to share the news, but be prepared for your boss to panic on hearing about it, even if it’s (hopefully) just momentarily. Here are some ways that can help you in communicating the special news.
Who to First Share the News With
No matter how tempted you are to reveal this news to your work buddies, avoid falling into the trap of telling everyone else before your boss. The latter should be one first one to know.
Anticipate your manager’s reaction, especially if this is the first time they will be working with a pregnant employee. If your company has had little or no experience with pregnant employees, it might help to provide them with information on your legal rights. It’s perfectly okay to ask your boss to keep the news confidential unless you feel ready to share it with everyone else.
[Related: What is Corporate America Getting Wrong with Their Female Talent]
When to Share the News
Legally, you don’t need to tell your employer of your pregnancy and intention to take maternity leave until 15 weeks before your baby is due, regardless of where you work.
Most women announce their pregnancy at the end of the first trimester (at about 12 weeks). There are several advantages of telling your boss sooner rather than later. The more planning and preparation involved before you leave, the easier it will be for you both to manage the transition smoothly. An employer’s responsibility of care for a pregnant employee does not come into effect until you have formerly informed your employer in writing.
Once aware, the employer must take action to deal with health and safety issues. Your employer is now liable to ensure that you are not exposed to any potential threats or safety risks involving your working conditions or hours of work. Alternate work can be suggested on the same terms and conditions, but if neither is possible then you are entitled to be suspended with full pay until the risks are eliminated. After the formal intimation, you are protected against unfavorable treatment resulting from any pregnancy-related discrimination. Read more about this at the Pregnancy Related Discrimination-Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website.
Any pregnancy-related sickness needs to be recorded separately and must not be used against you in any disciplinary, redundancy or dismissal decisions. You are entitled to reasonable paid time off for your antenatal care, including classes recommended by a registered medical practitioner along with appointments. You will have to provide proof of the same when asked.
How to Share the News
“The more time for planning and preparation you and your employer have before you leave, the easier both of you will find it when you return,” says Abigail Wood, public affairs manager at the NCT. It also presents you as a thorough professional who is committed to organization goals. Consult your GP or midwife regarding suitable dates for starting your leave. The UK government site states that the earliest you can start your leave is 11 weeks before your expected week of childbirth, but it is really up to you to decide depending on your own health and circumstances.
Pregnant working women in America are subject to different maternity rights unlike those enjoyed by women in almost all other developed countries especially in terms of a guaranteed paid maternity leave.
[Related: 10 Things You Need To Know About Maternity Leave In The US]
Avoid sharing the news casually. Schedule a special appointment with your boss to reveal the news. During the discussion be open and honest, and do not apologize as this is a special experience for you and nothing to be sorry about. Anticipate their concerns and be prepared to address them; for example, how the maternity leave will affect your work. Be aware of your own goals and don’t feel hesitant to reiterate past accomplishments that are evidence of the value you have provided to the organization.
[Related: Reacting to Pregnancy in the Workplace and What it Means for the Company]
Also, be equipped with research on your company’s policies and procedures as well as your own rights in this regard. In this meeting, you should be open to discussing ideas of Flex-timing in the future along with information on all important dates such as due date, appointment dates, etc. Devise a plan and agree on dates for handover, staying in touch, performance reviews, as well as resuming work. It will be a good idea to schedule your annual leave at this time as well.
You have worked hard to climb that corporate ladder and, understandably, you may be concerned about how the news of your pregnancy might impact your career. Organizations should do their part as well and endeavor to build an inclusive culture so that expectant moms do not feel left out. Do not feel too disappointed if you receive less than an enthusiastic response at work. It’s not that they don’t care or are not happy for you. Firstly, they might not be adequately prepared on how to respond appropriately, especially if it’s a first-time experience for them. And secondly, concerns regarding your leave and its subsequent impact on team goals might be too pressing a concern for them to express otherwise.
At all times, reassure those you work with of your commitment to the organization, its goals, and your own role objectives.
If you feel that your organization is treating you badly because you have informed them that you are pregnant, then free legal advice and support is available online. Remember that you are not the first one to go on leave. Do not feel responsible or guilty. Yes, the news will come with a lot of changes in the existing work situation for both you and your manager, but in today’s work environment, if there is anything constant, it’s change — and every manager must be prepared to deal with that.
Hira Ali is Founder of Advancing Your Potential & Revitalize and Rise. She is a Leadership Trainer, Motivational Speaker, Writer, and Professional Coach & NLP Practitioner. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org