Everything You Need to Know Before (and After) You Tell Your Boss You’re Pregnant
Before the second line even appeared on your at-home test, you may have known how you’d planned to reveal your pregnancy to your partner, family, friends, and social media followers. But if you’ve thought ahead about how to tell your boss you’re pregnant, your plans may have been tinged with dread or anxiety rather than excitement.
There are plenty of reasons spilling the beans about your baby-to-be to your employer may feel stressful. You may not be close with your boss, or perhaps you’re even concerned that your pregnancy may make them less likely to consider you for raises, promotions, or certain responsibilities. (Rest assured that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is in place to protect pregnant people from this kind of retaliation – more on that later – but it’s understandable if that feels like little consolation when you’re in this situation.)
“Pregnancy in and of itself might be nerve-racking for some,” Michele Goldman, PsyD, a psychologist who works with pregnant and postpartum people, says. “Know it’s normal to be nervous about disclosing to others that you’re pregnant.”
The most effective way to alleviate this stress is to know your rights as a pregnant person in the workplace and develop a plan to tell your boss, Dr. Goldman says. Both of these steps help you “take a sense of control over the situation,” she says. This step-by-step guide, backed by Dr. Goldman and other experts, will walk you through how to tell your boss you’re pregnant, including exactly what to say in the conversation and what to do if your employer reacts in a less-than-positive way.
What Are Your Rights When Telling an Employer About Pregnancy?
Before sharing your news, brush up on your company policy regarding parental leave and your rights. “Your organization should provide any information related to parental leave upon your hiring, and those policies should be easily accessible to you anytime. Often, they can be found within your company’s handbook or on their dedicated HR page,” Cassandra Pratt, the senior vice president of people at Progyny, a fertility and family-building benefit solution, says.
Though there’s no guaranteed federal paid leave in the US, some states, such as New York, have paid-leave policies. Though your company’s human resources team can advise you on them after your announcement, Pratt says you can find out if your state offers mandatory leave online; Indeed has a quick guide. She also recommends reviewing the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, a federal law that protects pregnant job applicants and employees working at companies of 15 or more employees from discrimination, including using pregnancy as cause for termination or harassment. It should provide you with some peace of mind to know that, as a pregnant person, your rights are protected at work.
When to Tell Your Boss You’re Pregnant
For the most part, Pratt says the timing of your announcement is up to you. “Many give notice of pregnancy following the first trimester,” Pratt says. “The reason being that it’s late enough to where your chances of miscarriage decline but early enough to where you are not significantly showing.”
Sometimes, you may wish or need to discuss your pregnancy with your boss sooner – if you’re having severe morning sickness that’s affecting your day-to-day or if your work includes strenuous physical labor requirements, for instance. “In these cases, you may need to alert your boss earlier so they can adjust your work responsibilities accordingly,” Pratt says.
On the other hand, you may be tempted to delay disclosing your pregnancy because, for example, you have a new boss who you don’t know well or you’re a relatively new hire at your company. But neither factor should change your timeline much. “While it might be a bit uncomfortable to tell a new boss if you haven’t had a chance to establish a relationship with them, I wouldn’t recommend changing your approach,” Celia Balson, founder and CEO of the HR consulting agency Work Friendly and mom to a 17-month-old, says. “So long as you are prepared with a high-level transition or coverage plan – or a recommendation of one – your boss will feel like you and they are both prepared for your leave.”
Another reason you may be tempted to delay sharing the news is if there’s a major review, raise, or promotion in the works. Pratt emphasizes that your pregnancy shouldn’t affect your eligibility for any of these (as outlined in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act) but understands the concern. “While hopefully not necessary, you can wait to tell your boss you’re expecting until after your review if it’s coming up soon,” Pratt says.
That said, you don’t want to put off the conversation for too long: Pratt notes that some companies even require at least 30 days’ notice (a rule that should be outlined in the employee handbook). She adds that more lead time often makes for a smoother transition if you’ll be taking any leave and leaves some room for you and the company to anticipate any unexpected issues, such as bed rest or early labor. So unless there’s a special circumstance, avoid putting off telling your boss for too long once you hit the second trimester.
Is It OK to Tell a Boss You’re Pregnant Via Email?
You’ve decided when to tell your boss you’re pregnant, and that time is here. Aim to set up a face-to-face meeting to have the conversation (Zoom or Google Meet is fine, if you’re working remotely) rather than sharing via email. “An email could be read at an inopportune time and result in miscommunication,” Pratt points out. Also worth noting: your boss should be the first person you tell at your company (so avoid telling your work bestie if there’s any risk that they won’t keep your secret), and be cautious about sharing the news on social media before you’ve had your meeting with your supervisor.
If you’re nervous, Dr. Goldman suggests letting family and friends know the meeting is coming up. “[This step] allows them to check in with you before and after, or as needed,” she says. Also, consider asking yourself what you’re more concerned about. “This might help you realize a specific thing that is prompting fear,” Goldman says. “If it’s within your control, you can do something about it. If it isn’t, you can practice acceptance and letting go.”
Exactly How to Tell You’re Boss You’re Pregnant
The best way to soothe premeeting fears is by knowing what you’ll say, Dr. Goldman says. (Also smart: bringing a notebook and pen or a laptop so that you can jot down any details you might forget.) Every relationship between a pregnant person and workplace is different, so there’s no cookie-cutter approach to sharing your news that will work for everyone. But if you’re struggling to find the words, Balson has some advice. She suggests saying, “I have some exciting news to share with you. I am expecting a baby on X date.” After they’ve replied, if they haven’t already addressed this, you can say, “In preparation for this meeting, I’ve reviewed our parental leave policy. I’ll be going on leave on X date [or when you go into labor] and returning on Y date.” After waiting for any feedback on that, you can add, “I do plan on returning to work, and I’m confident that with ample time to plan, the team will be in a great position to succeed while I am gone.”
In this conversation, you can also ask about developing a strategy for how and when to let other colleagues and higher-ups know. For example, if you tell your boss about your pregnancy early in your first trimester, you may prefer to wait to tell coworkers for a couple of weeks. “I’d be clear with your manager about whether you’d like to personally share the news or if you’re comfortable with them sharing it with people,” Balson suggests.
What Happens If Your Boss Reacts Poorly?
Balson doesn’t pull any punches: “A bad reaction to your pregnancy announcement is not acceptable in this situation, and I would never anticipate a poor reaction when sharing news as exciting as welcoming a new baby into the world,” she says. If your boss does react poorly, she suggests reaching out to your company’s people or HR team for more support and information. “Your people team will likely reach out to your boss or give you guidance on how to proceed in the conversation,” Balson says.
This is also why you’ve reviewed your rights; while we hope it doesn’t come to this, in a worst-case scenario, you can file an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint with the US Department of Labor.
You Told Your Boss You’re Pregnant. Now What?
Whew – you did it! After telling your boss you’re pregnant (and hopefully receiving their congratulations), you can begin to work on a loose transition plan. It should include necessary information (timelines, workflow processes, etc.) for any large projects you’re involved in; a specific person or people who will be covering your various duties during your leave; and any outstanding work that will need to get completed, Balson says. Also make sure to meet with HR to fill out any necessary paperwork required by the company or state.
Then, try to relax! Pregnancy is a marathon, not a sprint – and you have plenty to do to prepare for your new baby.