Are you pregnant and wondering how to break the news at work? You’re not alone. Many women worry about how the news will be received.
After all, a pregnancy announcement can signal significant changes for your coworkers, too. They may wonder if they’ll have to take on more work or if you’ll return after your baby is born.
We’ll discuss your rights in the workplace and how to appropriately announce your pregnancy to your boss or coworkers.
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- Know your rights under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
- Accommodations at work may include frequent bathroom breaks, ergonomic furniture, or altered work schedules.
- Announce your pregnancy to your boss first, then coworkers, and consider giving at least 30 days’ notice before maternity leave.
- Be professional when announcing your pregnancy and avoid committing to returning if you’re unsure of your plans post-maternity leave.
What Laws Do I Need to Know About?
In the United States, three main pieces of legislation govern your rights at work as a pregnant woman. These are the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (1).
These regulations apply to companies with 15 or more employees.
Your workplace is not allowed to discriminate against you because you are pregnant — meaning they cannot fire you, deny you a promotion, refuse to hire you, or involuntarily reassign you because of a pregnancy.
What Types of Accommodations Can I Get at Work While Pregnant?
If you need accommodations to do your job effectively while pregnant, your employer must provide them as long as:
- They provide similar accommodations for non-pregnant employees who have limitations.
- The accommodation does not pose a significant burden or expense on the employer.
Accommodations can vary widely and depend on your job and specific limitations.
Some examples of accommodations for pregnancy-related limitations include:
- More frequent bathroom breaks.
- Permission to sit or stand.
- Permission to work from home.
- Reprieve from certain non-essential work duties.
- Ergonomic office furniture.
- Altered work schedule.
Your employer is not allowed to charge you for any costs associated with your accommodation or reduce your pay — as long as you are still doing your regular job.
When discussing accommodations, it is important to note that pregnancy is not a reason not to meet job performance expectations. Accommodations are ways to help you meet performance expectations, not lower the existing standards.
What if I Can’t Do My Job While Pregnant?
If you find yourself completely unable to do your job while pregnant, you still have some options. You can ask for a temporary reassignment, reduced hours, or light duty — but you may also be subject to reduced pay if you are no longer doing your regular job.
If you have a health condition that precludes you from working at all, you may be able to take unpaid leave as a pregnancy accommodation or qualify for FMLA leave, which is also unpaid leave but preserves your job while you are off work.
Do Individual States Have Pregnancy-Related Employment Laws?
Keep in mind the PDA, ADA, and FMLA are national regulations and the bare minimum of what your workplace must provide. Several states have enacted their own legislation, which may provide you with additional protections.
You can learn about the specific regulations of your state here.
When Should I Announce My Pregnancy at Work?
It is entirely up to you when you want to announce your pregnancy. Most women choose to wait until after the first trimester when their risk of miscarriage drops significantly. This helps avoid awkward, uncomfortable, or intimate personal conversations in the event that you have a miscarriage within the first 13 weeks.
However, you may choose to disclose your pregnancy to your supervisor earlier if you suffer from severe morning sickness that interferes with your job performance. While you may not be ready to share your condition widely with the whole office, sharing on a need-to-know basis may be necessary.
If you’re not one to make a dramatic announcement or you have your reasons for wanting to hide your pregnancy for as long as possible, you may consider notifying the “powers that be” earlier than sharing with the general public.
If you plan to take a lengthy maternity leave, it takes quite a bit of planning, so it is a common courtesy to notify coworkers who may be affected to give them a reasonable amount of time to plan for your absence.
Give At Least A Month
How Can I Hide My Pregnancy at Work?
If you’re not ready to share your good news, it’s generally easy to hide your first-trimester bump, if you even have one, with loose clothes. But what about the other symptoms?
How do you hide some of the more subtle pregnancy symptoms that may be a dead giveaway?
- Skipping coffee: Whether you’re avoiding caffeine in early pregnancy or just lost your taste for the stuff, thanks to a food aversion, simply fill a coffee travel mug with water. You need to stay hydrated, anyway — and your coworkers will be none the wiser that you’re actually skipping your morning joe.
- Food aversions: If you can’t stand the break room because of all the smells wafting from the fridge and microwave, pack your lunch in a cooler or lunch box with reusable ice packs. And if you don’t have a private space to eat at your desk, find a bench outside. You’ll not only get a break but some fresh air too.
- Extreme fatigue: The typical mid-afternoon fatigue is even more brutal when you’re pregnant. Use your afternoon break to take a quick walk outside. The fresh air and light exercise can help give you a boost of energy to perk you up.
- Pregnancy nausea: If you’re struggling with morning sickness or pregnancy nausea, keep palatable snacks in your desk at work to keep your stomach from fully emptying, or suck on pregnancy pops throughout the day.
Tips for Announcing Your Pregnancy at Work
When you’re finally ready to spill the beans, here are some tips on how to do it well.
1. Telling Your Boss You’re Pregnant
When telling your boss you’re pregnant, it’s important to keep in mind that one of their first thoughts will be how to cover your workload while you’re gone or how to replace you if you don’t intend to return.
While the culture in each workplace varies widely, it’s best to communicate your pregnancy to your boss in person initially, then follow it up with an email documenting your conversation.
Before telling your boss you’re pregnant, it’s ideal if you’ve given thought to the following and can communicate your plans clearly:
- Whether you intend to return to work after your baby is born.
- An approximation of your maternity leave dates.
- A list of tasks you intend to do to help prepare for your maternity leave coverage.
If you announce your pregnancy to your boss over email, consider using the following template. You may also use this template to summarize your follow-up email if you shared your pregnancy news in person.
Dear <SUPERVISOR NAME>:
I wanted to notify you that I am currently pregnant with a due date of <DUE DATE>. While I am thrilled about this addition to our family, I also recognize that a maternity leave will impact the office. I wanted to share this information with you early to allow for adequate time to prepare.
I plan to work until as close to my due date as possible and then return to work after a three-month maternity leave. In the meantime, I am committed to doing as much as I can to prepare for my absence.
Over the next few months, I plan to do the following:
- Make a detailed list of all my current work-related duties.
- Make clear, detailed guides for some of the more complex duties.
- Work with you to identify current employees who may be able to absorb some of the duties.
- Thoroughly train my replacements on how to do certain tasks.
- Finish up <BIG PROJECTS THAT MAY BE DIFFICULT TO PASS ON>.
Of course, the date of the beginning of my leave may vary slightly due to the unpredictability of pregnancy, but I plan to give you as much notice as possible if any changes arise.
I plan to meet with HR to see what they need for documentation. If you think of anything else you’d like me to address in advance of my maternity leave, please don’t hesitate to let me know so I can add it to my to-do list.
2. Telling Your Coworkers You’re Pregnant
The way you announce your pregnancy to your coworkers will vary significantly based upon your workplace culture and your relationships with your coworkers. Do it in the way that feels most natural to the employment environment, whether it’s sharing privately on a one-on-one basis or bringing cake into the break room with a celebratory “baby on board” announcement.
Rest assured, good news travels fast, so if you’re not able to tell everyone in person, chances are they’ll hear the news through the grapevine soon enough. Try your best to share personally with those you work with most closely, and don’t worry if you cannot get to everyone.
After all, it will be obvious as your belly swells over the next few months.
3. Telling Your Employees You’re Pregnant
If you own your own business or have employees you supervise, be aware they may feel anxious about how your pregnancy may affect their personal work or how things will run when you’re on leave. Their feelings deserve respect, and you should use the utmost care when sharing your news.
Ideally, you will share your news personally with your direct reports, assuring them that you will have clear plans in place to ensure your leave is not burdensome to them. Depending on the employee, you may also frame it as an opportunity for them to take on a more advanced role in the company, giving them the chance to prepare for career advancement.
Once you’ve notified the most critical people of your pregnancy, feel free to share the news more widely at a staff meeting or in an email. Again, reiterate you will have clear plans in place to ensure your absence has the least amount of impact on the company and your individual employees.
Things to Avoid When Announcing
- Don’t announce your pregnancy in an emotional moment: While sharing your pregnancy with family and friends is exciting and celebratory, your announcement at work — particularly to your boss — deserves to be well thought out, prepared, and professional. Resist the urge to announce your pregnancy in an emotional, unplanned moment in a careless way.
- Don’t share with your coworkers before your boss: Regardless of your relationship with your boss, they deserve to hear about your pregnancy from you, not through the rumor mill. No matter if you swear your colleagues to secrecy, if you start to share with them before you tell your boss, they are bound to find out. Out of respect, let your boss be the first to know, and then share with your coworkers after that.
- Don’t lead with expected accommodations: Be gracious when you announce your pregnancy, and don’t start off with the accommodations you expect to receive. When you share your pregnancy with your boss, simply share the news, your expected leave dates, and your work plan. Address accommodations in later conversations as the needs arise.
- Don’t expect everyone to be thrilled: Every workplace is different, and in many, the line between “business” and “personal” is well-defined. While you never have to endure discrimination or harassment due to your pregnancy, don’t expect everyone to be thrilled. In a perfect world, they would be. But if some people aren’t overjoyed for you, don’t take it personally. After all, it’s just business.
- Don’t commit to returning after your maternity leave if you actually intend to quit: I get it. Plans change all the time, and it’s entirely possible you had every intention of returning to work but can’t bring yourself to do it once your baby is in your arms. That’s perfectly OK. But unfortunately, some mothers mislead their employers with plans to return post-pregnancy when they intend to quit in order to reap company-issued maternity leave benefits. Not only is this unethical, but it can also have serious financial repercussions. If you quit your job while on maternity leave, you may be required to repay any benefits or health insurance premiums provided while you were away from work.
The Bottom Line
Pregnancy is a time of intense planning and preparation, and your professional life deserves no less preparation. It all starts with announcing your pregnancy to your employer, which you need to do with care, respect, and intention.
When you announce your pregnancy at work in a way that lets others know you’re looking out for them, it makes it easier for them to look out for you, too. So if you’re nervous about spilling the beans, don’t be. Just make sure you have a plan before you do it.