Pregnant? When, How, and What to Tell Your Boss

“ It’s a great thing about being pregnant –
You don’t need excuses to pee or to eat.”

– Angelina Jolie

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: I must admit – being a man – that I have no direct “personal” experience with pregnancy. However, I do have many female clients, in fact, a majority of my clients are female, and I think I’ve learned more than a thing or two from them on this subject. And, too, I am an employer, and have been told by more than one female employee that she is pregnant. So, I think I see things from “both sides” at least a bit.

I know from many of my clients’ case histories that notifying their employer of a newly confirmed pregnancy, and then “navigating” the process of the many details of “pre-leave,” “leave,” and “post-leave,” were harrowing. Many of them have asked, “Do you have a checklist of some kind that I can use?”

And many of them have shared a sense that, if they don’t do this carefully – very carefully – their jobs and careers could suffer.

LESSON TO LEARN: Pregnancy is a time of transition. There are bodily changes, emotional changes, changes in family dynamics, and others, too. It is not surprising that pregnancy brings about certain workplace changes, as well.

Preparing for the workplace changes cannot be accomplished entirely on one’s own. Your colleagues, managers, clients and assistants may all have to make adjustments to accommodate the changes going on in your life, and common sense dictates that you and they cannot make necessary adjustments until you’ve given them notice of your pregnancy.

So, when should you give notice of your pregnancy? How should you do so? What should you say? There are no hard-and-fast rules. That said, here are the guidelines we have put together from the experiences of our clients, from hints and ideas found on the internet, and from my own experience as an employer receiving notice of pregnancy from my own employees and partners.

They are set forth here, so that you can consider inserting them into your notice of pregnancy, and also as checklist of items to attend to. You have enough on your mind, already.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: We have assembled the suggestions we received from our clients and others about when, how and what to do when giving notice of your pregnancy. You can also use these suggestions as a kind of checklist for your Maternity Leave planning.

One important thing to bear in mind: “No one size fits all.” By that I mean that each of us has different views, sensibilities, circumstances and concerns. Perhaps in no context is that more relevant than it is in matters of pregnancy and maternity. So, pick and choose which, if any, of the following suggestions may apply to you, and which may not, and insert those that do make sense into your notice of pregnancy:

a. WHEN should you give notice of your pregnancy? As a reminder, there are no hard-and-fast rules in this aspect of the workplace experience. That said, some of the many suggestions clients have offered to us, based on their experiences, can be boiled down to these four: (a) only after your pregnancy has been confirmed, (b) the sooner the better, (c) before you share the news with anyone else at work, and (d) as soon as you feel it is beginning to affect your work in any way.

When sensible, exceptions or modifications to these four guidelines should be considered. Exceptions might include (i) if question persists as to the viability of the pregnancy, (ii) not until an anticipated promotion is announced, (iii) not until after completion of an important project of achievement of a critical goal, (iv) after a scheduled, upcoming performance review, (v) not until after receipt of an anticipated bonus or stock award. Of course, other exceptions to the general rule exist, too.

b. HOW should you give notice of your pregnancy? Although there are no hard-and-fast rules in this regard, either, the suggestions offered by many women are easily boiled down to these four: (a) in person, if possible, (b) in a brief private meeting requested by you, and not in a casual conversation or group discussion, (c) by email, if necessary, and (d) accompanied by as much evidence of forethought and planning as you can.

As to that last point, no matter how much your manager is overjoyed with your good news, he or she will, almost inevitably, view your being pregnant as something of a “potential problem to attend to” for him or her, or, at the very least, a consideration to taken into account in the course of many upcoming decisions This is only natural, because your pregnancy and maternity leave will require that adjustments be made which are outside the scope of ordinary daily business decisions. It’s for this reason that being perceived as having something of a “solution” in hand when you first raise and discuss the possibly-perceived “problem” is very important.

So . . . we strongly suggest that, if you give your boss notice of your pregnancy in a one-on-one meeting, you bring with you a memo that sets forth your thoughts and suggestions as to how each aspect of the “problem” can and should be most efficiently and effectively addressed, if not solved.

On the other hand, if your boss is not in the same physical location as you are, we strongly suggest you give notice of your pregnancy by way of an email that sets down those same “thoughtful thoughts.”

c. WHAT should you tell your boss when you give notice of your pregnancy? These are the 18 points we think you should consider raising when you give notice of your pregnancy, right after you share your good news with him or her. Is it necessary to say all of these things? No, because many of them might not be applicable to you, or impractical for your particular reasons. So feel free to pick and choose among them, and use those others later if they do become applicable:

    1. You will likely prefer to be the person who gives notice of your pregnancy to your team members, colleagues and, perhaps, clients. Every woman is different. You may have things you want to say, things you don’t want to say, and use different ways of saying things to different people. You may also want to draft or review any announcement that goes out before it is disseminated. This is the best time to make those preferences known.

    2. In coming days and weeks, you may require a degree of additional understanding in dealing with such things as morning sickness, frequent bathroom breaks, and the like. Not only is every woman different, but each pregnancy is different than every other pregnancy. Also, you don’t know how familiar your boss may be with the moment-to-moment experiences that a pregnant woman might have. The last thing you want your manager to think of say is “Where is she, again?” when you are simply in the ladies room for one reason or another.

    3. Your pregnancy may require temporary, informal accommodations regarding your duties and activities. Only time will tell if, when or how your pregnancy may make it necessary for you to request accommodations to your duties, travel, schedule and the like. For example, regular and possibly frequent prenatal appointments might impinge on your daily schedule, and even on your degree of travel. It may be wise to make note of this probability at this time, even though you may not now know what those later accommodations may become necessary.

    4. Certain activities – such as heavy lifting, exposure to toxic chemicals, and lengthy air travel – will almost surely become necessary to avoid. During your pregnancy, your health and your baby’s health may require that certain workplace activities be curtailed or avoided entirely. These may include long distance car travel, airplane flights, heavy lifting (such as suitcases), and being exposed to cigarette smoke or other toxic substances. Consider your usual workplace experience, perhaps consult with your physician, and then discuss the possible modification of activities with your boss.

    5. Once you have given notice of pregnancy to your boss, you can then openly ask HR for all pregnancy- and maternity-related policies, benefits and services. Even if you have done your best to educate yourself about company policies, benefits and procedures related to pregnancy, there is no substitute for asking Human Resources for ALL information there is about ALL benefits, programs, policies, procedures and forms you may need to best get yourself through this period of transition. It’s important that you don’t miss out on any advantage by simply failing to ask, and it costs nothing to inquire.

    6. You should mention that you will give as much notice as you can regarding when you will need to begin your Maternity Leave. No one can expect a pregnant woman to know when she will need to begin her full-time Maternity Leave. However, every manager can expect the most notice possible. Providing assurance that you will provide that maximum advance notice possible is a positive thing to do.

    7. It can only help to reassure your boss that you are already preparing a comprehensive plan for your maternity leave – before, during and after – so that nothing will “fall between the cracks.” It surely can’t hurt to advise your boss that you are preparing a comprehensive plan for the two transitions that are soon going to take place: (i) transition of your duties to others when you go out on Maternity Leave, and, (ii) for transition of your duties back to you upon your return.

    8. If any kind of workplace investigation or review is planned or underway, you should advise that, though pregnant and going out on Maternity Leave, you will do your best to cooperate with it to your best ability. It is more common than you might think that an employee is involved in one way or another in an ongoing investigation that might require her cooperation. It might relate to a complaint filed by an employee, a tax issue, even violation of some kind of law or policy by a colleague. If you are in any way involved, centrally or peripherally, in a planned or ongoing investigation, you should make a clear record that you are not declining to cooperate, but are willing to do so to your very best ability, subject only to the your and your baby’s health.

    9. Share that, if prior to your Maternity Leave, re-assignments of duties are deemed in order, you would appreciate prior notice and a chance to make suggestions about them. If, for example, your accounts are going to be assigned to someone else before you go out on Maternity Leave, you would like to have input on that choice of person, the timing of that assignment, and notification to your accounts of that decision. The same thing goes for re-assignment of employees who presently report to you. Finding out from others that you have temporarily lost certain staff, accounts, and duties can create very uncomfortable, confusing, even humiliating situations.

    10. For temporary re-assignments of your duties to be effective during your Maternity Leave, it would be wise to advise that you have suggestions as to who you believe would be best to “carry the ball” for you while you are on your Maternity Leave. It is very important that, while you are away, your work is handled in good fashion, and upon your return, all is in good order. A good deal of thought should go into who would be best to “carry the ball” while you are away. You will need to work with this person before your leave, possibly during your leave, and for certain after your leave. Letting your boss know that you are giving this thought, and will come back with suggestions, may be one of the wisest things you can do at this time.

    11. I strongly suggest that you provide your consent to limited contacts during your Maternity Leave. Many employers’ policies forbid managers and colleagues to contact women out on Maternity Leave for fear that such contact could be viewed as interfering with the Maternity Leave. You might be better off by proactively offering that you are comfortable with limited communications coming your way, and will advise should they rise to the level of becoming problematic. This will be helpful in a number of different ways, including those noted in items 8, above and 13, 14 and 15, below.

    12. Any upcoming performance review (annual or mid-year) should take into account your time on leave, and not be analyzed as if you had worked a full 12 months. It is simply the case that many of my clients have reported to me that their annual performance reviews did not take into account their leave time. That is, that (a) the number of visits to client locations, (b) amount of sales achieved, (c) conferences attended, or (d) research reports published, did not take into account that they were out of the office for up to three months of the review period.

    Since performance reviews are so important a factor in yearly compensation, consideration for promotions, and long-term career success, raising this point at this time is suggested. As in so many other contexts, here too an ounce of prevention is surely worth a pound of cure.

    13. Since it is common that performance reviews are not done for employees on leave, I suggest you seek to have yours done during or after your leave time. Because positive performance reviews are so important in decisions regarding future retention, compensation, promotion and other aspects of career development, I counsel women headed toward Maternity Leave to request that their performance reviews take place either during the Maternity Leave, by telephone, or promptly after return from leave.

    14. Interested in potential Transfer Opportunities? If so, you may want to note that now. Don’t forget that taking time off for Maternity Leave is your right, and that you should suffer no disadvantage due to your taking it. Upon return from Maternity Leave, many women seek a different position that affords greater flexibility in schedule, less travel time, and/or an opportunity to work from home, for the benefit of their newborn.

    If you are interested in opportunities for transfer during your leave time, say that now. If you don’t, you might miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime. You can here and now note that you would like to be advised of any such opportunity . . . even though you are out to have your baby. Since you may not be aware of such opportunities while you are out on leave, you may be wise to ask to be advised of any that might arise during your Leave time.

    15. The same thing goes for interim Promotion and Leadership opportunities. This is a near-mirror image of the previous suggestion, but geared toward career advancement. When promotion or elevation is available, you don’t want to be “Out of sight, out of mind.”

    16. Don’t forget to notify boards, committees and working groups that you will be out on Maternity Leave in the foreseeable future. As part of their jobs, many people are members of boards, committees and working groups, both internal and external. Since such service may be part of your work responsibilities, you would be wise to remind your boss of this, and advise that you will be notifying these groups of your upcoming Maternity Leave.

    17. Consider whether, subject to your child’s welfare and your physician’s directives, you may want to attend an upcoming trade conference, industry meeting or client function during your Maternity Leave time. You might ask, “Can I do that?” The answer is a qualified “Yes, probably.” Maternity Leave is your time to spend primarily recuperating from the travails of childbirth, and developing a warm and positive bond with your newborn. Are you permitted to go to the grocery story for a few minutes to buy diapers? Sure. Are you permitted to go away for two months on a mountain-climbing expedition? Probably not, or at least that would likely not be viewed positively if your employer found out, but rather more likely viewed as an abuse of the leave time off.

    A brief time off – especially with the approval of your pediatrician – to attend a work-related function may well be in your newborn’s, your own, and your employer’s interests. If this seems like something you might want to do, consider mentioning that in your “notice of pregnancy” memo to your boss.

On Maternity Leave, but want to attend a seminar, course, conference, etc.? If so our Model Memo Advising Manager of Out-of-Home Activity while on Maternity Leave may be just what you need. Shows you “What to Say, and How to Say It.™ To obtain your copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

    18. Perhaps of greatest importance, state unequivocally that you intend to return to your position upon the completion of your Maternity Leave, even if you are unsure. No matter what you feel at the moment, it is to your significant advantage to state, in your pregnancy-notice email, that you fully intend to return to your job upon the conclusion of your Maternity Leave. The very last thing you need is for your manager, one or more of your colleagues, Human Resources, or anyone else, to believe and share with others that you do not intend to return. During your Maternity Leave a wide variety of things can happen, some that might support your returning, some that might not support your not returning. But it is unquestionably better to you make a written record that you plan on returning, and expect your job to be fully available to you at your leave’s end.

P.S.: To help you on all of these points, we offer a Model Memo Giving Pregnancy Notice to Your Boss – With 18 Points to Consider Raising in Your Memo. (Can be used as a Pre-Maternity Leave Checklist, too.) “What to Say, and How to Say It.™ To obtain your copy, [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

In Sum . . .

If pregnant, consider carefully when, how and what you will provide notice to your boss. Both tactical and strategic considerations abound. The 18 suggestions are those that the experience of our many clients suggest should be considered.

Consider these Related Model Letters, Memos and Checklists
that may also Prove Helpful to You.

Looking for a New Job? We offer a 152-Point Master Checklist of Employment Negotiation Items to help you “remember everything and not forget anything else.” To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

Job hunting? Here’s a great idea: Use our “I’m Seeking a New Job” Letter to Friends and Family.” It shows you “What to Say, and How to Say It.™ To obtain your copy, [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

Job Hunting? Equip yourself with positive reference letters. Use our Model Letter to Former Managers and Colleagues Requesting Positive Reference Letters, with Three Sample Reference Letters. “What to Say, and How to Say It.”™ To obtain your copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

Need a simple but effective Model Cover Letter Submitting Your Resume? It contains alternative clauses for various circumstances. “What to Say, and How to Say It,™ just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

If interviewing, don’t forget to Remind Interviewers Not to Contact Your Present Employer. Use our Model Letter to do so. It contains alternative clauses for various circumstances. “What to Say, and How to Say It,™ just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

Hard to explain your last departure? Use our 50 Good Reasons to Explain Your Last Job Departure. Original, creative and so very useful! “What to Say, and How to Say It.™ To obtain your copy, [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

SkloverWorkingWisdom™ emphasizes smart negotiating – and navigating – for yourself at work. Negotiation of work and career issues requires that you think “out of the box,” and build value and avoid risks at every point in your career. We strive to help you understand what is commonly before you, and know what to “watch out” for. The rest is then up to you.

Always be proactive. Always be creative. Always be persistent. Always be vigilant. And always do all you can to achieve the best for yourself, your family, and your career. Take all available steps to increase and secure employment “rewards” and eliminate or reduce employment “risks.” Giving notice of your pregnancy, and including those of our 18 items that are sensible to your circumstances to your maximum advantage, is exactly what SkloverWorkingWisdom™ is all about.

*A note about our Actual Case Histories: In order to preserve client confidences, and protect client identities, we alter certain facts, including the name, age, gender, position, date, geographical location, and industry of our clients. The essential facts, the point illustrated and the lesson to be learned, remain actual.

Please Note: This Email Newsletter is not legal advice, but only an effort to provide generalized information about important topics related to employment and the law. Legal advice can only be rendered after formal retention of counsel, and must take into account the facts and circumstances of a particular case. Those in need of legal advice, counsel or representation should retain competent legal counsel licensed to practice law in their locale.

Sklover Working Wisdom™ is a trademarked newsletter publication of Alan L. Sklover, of Sklover & Company, LLC, a law firm dedicated to the counsel and representation of employees in matters of their employment, compensation and severance. Nothing expressed in this material constitutes legal advice. Please note that Mr. Sklover is admitted to practice in the state of New York, only. When assisting clients in other jurisdictions, he retains the assistance of local counsel and/or obtains permission of local Courts to appear. Copying, use and/or reproduction of this material in any form or media without prior written permission is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved. For further information, contact Sklover & Company, LLC, 45 Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 2000, New York, New York 10111 (212) 757-5000.

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