Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Mr. Bartender and I do not have children. So maybe I just don’t know enough about these things. But I must admit that I’m surprised we haven’t talked about this situation earlier. Here’s today’s reader note:
Hi Sharlyn, I hope you are doing well! I enjoy reading your blog posts and wanted to reach out in hopes that you could help me with some advice.
I have just accepted a verbal job offer. I’m super excited to start, but there is one thing. I recently found out I was expecting. Super excited about that as well, but my question is…how would you advise I go about telling my new employer that I am?
I want to be professional, but obviously I didn’t want to tell during the interview process. When I applied I was not expecting yet. I’m 15 weeks along, but I haven’t even announced to my friends yet. If you could offer any advice, I would be very grateful!
Again, I’ve never had kids, so honestly, I don’t have any personal experiences that I can share. My initial thought is that this is a very personal matter, so “it depends”. To get some insights, I decided to reach out to a few colleagues and friends to get their thoughts. I asked them one question:
What suggestion would you give to someone who is trying to figure out how and when to tell their employer that they’re expecting?
Congratulations! Prioritize telling your friends and family first.
Talking to an employer about having kids is really hard because of the stereotypes we have about parenting, flexibility, and the ire that we think employers might have about us needing leave, including leaving work to pick up a sick kid. I know that not all employers have a dim view of working with pregnant and parent employees. Hopefully, this employer cares about you and wants what’s best for you too.
Here’s what I recommend: Work on a plan and be open to talking about that plan. Look at your new employer’s handbook, what does it say about leaves in it? Because you haven’t worked at the employer for more than a year, you will not be eligible for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), assuming the employer has enough employees. But, depending on the state you’re in, you could be eligible for state family leave. Start with what leave you could take, then consider how much leave you want to take. Some parents want to take all the possible leave, others want to get back to the office as soon as medically possible. Really consider what you want.
Also consider what kinds of benefits might be available. Questions could include:
- Am I eligible for any form of paid parental leave?
- Does the company have short-term disability?
- If you have health insurance through them, how does premium payments work during a leave?
Sitting down with an HR pro could help develop your plans too. They’ve worked with your team longer than you (probably), so they might even have tips on how to talk with your manager about your pregnancy.
Then, sit down with your manager and be straight forward about having a baby. Explain that the interviews were still really early in your pregnancy where you hadn’t yet told family and friends. Talk about what plan you’re developing for time off. This could include some ideas about who could help with the workload while you’re out as well as contingency plans if the baby comes faster or slower than expected.
Remember, pregnancy is a protected class under federal and many state laws, so they can’t fire you for being pregnant. My best advice would be to be upfront about the situation. You value working for this organization and they just decided to hire you because of the value you bring. Having a baby shouldn’t change that.
Heather Bussing is an employment attorney and a regular contributor at HR Examiner. She’s helped us on several occasions and this article on “Social Media Background Checks: Are They Okay?” is one of my favorites.
Wait until after you start and build some trust with your team and supervisor, then let them know. By that time, you will have some idea about how long you will be out and can focus the conversation on how the work gets done while you are gone and when you expect to return.
You want to let them know with enough notice to plan for your parental leave, but you also want to wait long enough to establish your value, so you are less likely to experience pregnancy discrimination. Many employers are wonderful, and I know employees who interviewed obviously pregnant, accepted the offer, and started then went on parental leave with the employer’s full support. But not all employers see it this way. It’s easier to not give them a chance to discriminate early on than to deal with a discrimination claim while you are also getting used to being a mom and learning about tiny humans. Congratulations!
Ed Han describes himself as an “in the trenches” recruiter. I thought his comments were spot on in this article about “Should You Use Your Real Job Title on Linkedin”.
I too am not a parent, but quite honestly: this is not any of the new employer’s business. There is little more personal and private than an impending pregnancy. However, while working in the new job, documenting the processes and what resources you use to do the job will be essential.
Real life is complex and unexpected. You cannot know how your new manager and/or employer will respond to your good news. Be guarded. Disclose nothing that it is not essential to disclose.
Right now, you are in some organizations on your probationary period. Give them no cause for complaint or dissatisfaction. All the while make sure that there is always a colleague you trust who knows where the documentation can be found. When the time comes, you can turn over the documentation so that someone else can step in with a minimum of disruption and business impact.
This one is tough! But the bottom line is, she is not obligated to disclose her pregnancy before she starts. And she has already accepted their verbal offer, so she’s just waiting for a letter to sign.
The employer will not be obligated to extend FMLA protection to her because she will not have worked for them for a year. (This might be different if she lives or works in a jurisdiction with additional FMLA-type protections for employees, or for an employer not large enough to be covered by FMLA).
So, in the interest of preempting a situation where she finds herself out of work in 5-6 months, she might say this before she returns the offer letter, “I know I’m not obligated to share this now, but practically speaking I want you to know that I am pregnant and will want to take off 12 (or however many) weeks in less than 6 months. I very much intend to keep working after the baby is born, and I really hope you’ll allow me to show you in the next few months why you’ll want to keep me on your team.” She’ll be relying on the employer’s good faith, but in offering hers first, if they don’t return the favor, she will probably be better off in the long run.
Hannah Morgan is a nationally recognized author, speaker, and job search strategist. She’s the author of the Career Sherpa blog and I hope you heard our conversation about managing your career during the “next normal” on the HR Bartender Show.
This is a great question. I was already employed when I was pregnant with both my boys. It didn’t really change anything for me or my work. So that’s my perspective. Here’s my answer:
The early stages of pregnancy can be iffy. While I believe honesty is the best policy, I think what’s in question here is the timing of the conversation with her manager.
When she reaches the point of telling friends about her pregnancy is probably when she should consider talking to her manager. It’s going to be a surprise to them and something they weren’t calculating when they hired her. So, it’s important for her to make sure she is exceeding expectations in the early days of her job.
I would suggest the conversation be face to face and not done through email. Zoom or video is fine. She’ll want to be truthful, yet not apologetic. Possibly addressing it at the end of a regular meeting with her manager would make it seem less of a crisis. (Millions of pregnant women work without it majorly disrupting anything at work.) Here are things she should plan on addressing:
- Due date
- Time for doctor’s appointments
- Time off before and after birth
- Completing her work now and in the future
By presenting the predictable timelines and challenges, she’ll help her manager think about what they both need to do and make accommodations now. This should help her manager feel less overwhelmed.
Tim Sackett is president of HRU Technical Resources. He’s the author of “The Talent Fix: A Leader’s Guide to Recruiting Great Talent”. I had the chance to interview Tim for an article I wrote for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) on “5 Talent Management Trends and the HR Skills They Require”.
Do you really need this job? If you really need this job, like you’re out of job, DO NOT tell the new employer you’re pregnant. Honestly, it shouldn’t matter, and you have to take care of yourself and your family first.
Do you really want this job, but don’t really need it? I would call my future boss and say, “I have some news and I want to be professional about this, I’m pregnant. This doesn’t change my plans of accepting your position and I can’t wait to start, but I also didn’t want to start this job without you knowing.”
Worse case, they find some way to have you not start, and you have a lawsuit. Best case, mostly the normal case, your new boss will congratulate you and you’ll start and go through the process with a solid foundation of trust.
I want to extend a HUGE thanks to Tim, Hannah, Meg, Ed, Heather, and Kate for sharing their experience and expertise. In reading their comments, I thought there were many things to consider and some common themes to note.
One of the most challenging and rewarding parts of writing this blog is getting an opportunity to answer your questions. Please keep those questions coming! And thanks for being an HR Bartender reader.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Tampa, FL11