How and when to tell your boss you're taking maternity leave

If you’re newly pregnant, you may be wondering how and when to tell your boss you’re taking maternity leave.  Whether you work for a huge multinational or a small family-run business, you may be feeling nervous about sharing your news.  This article will cover everything you need to know about telling your boss you’re pregnant.

When should I tell my boss I'm pregnant?

If you're umming and ahhing about when's the right time to tell your boss you're pregnant is whenever you feel, the short and easy answer is whenever you choose to.  It’s your pregnancy, and you should announce it when you feel comfortable.

However, from a maternity leave perspective, you should tell your boss soon rather than later so that they can make arrangements for your cover.

Here are some things to consider when deciding how soon to tell your boss about the pregnancy:

When should I tell my boss I'm pregnant?

Whether you want to wait until the second trimester

Many women choose to wait after the first trimester before sharing the news with their work colleagues. If you’re waiting until the second trimester to share the news with your friends and family, you may want to keep it quiet at work until then, too.

However, if you’re battling pregnancy nausea and fatigue, you may need to share the news sooner, so explain your reduced energy at work.

Your working relationship

When you choose to tell your boss is totally up to you and will depend on your relationship with your boss. If you have a good working relationship, you may feel more comfortable telling your boss than if you have a complicated relationship with them.

Only you can decide when is the best time to share your news, though you should be sure to give them enough time to organise your work cover and your maternity leave.

The type of job you have

If you sit at a desk all day, you might get away with sharing your news later than if you have a physically demanding job.

However, if you need to alter your responsibilities at work, you will want to do this as soon as possible. You may need to change your duties if you work with harsh chemicals or in a physically demanding job.

When you start to show

You may prefer to tell your boss before they guess, so it might be worth announcing your news before you have a big bump. However, if you show early, this doesn’t mean you need to tell them before you feel ready.

One of the many benefits remote working is that it gives women some extra time before announcing their news. If you only appear as a head and shoulders in a video chat, your coworkers are unlikely to guess your news.

A pregnant woman in a yellow t-shirt on her phone

How should I tell my boss I'm pregnant?

You should tell your boss you are pregnant in person. If possible, schedule a face-to-face meeting with your boss so you can share your good news. If you work remotely, you could have a video call instead. Generally, email isn’t a great way to share this news.

How you tell your boss will be influenced by your working relationship. For example, if you are close and get along well, you may find it easier to tell them your good news. On the other hand, if you have seen them react badly to pregnancy announcements in the past, you may feel wary about announcing your pregnancy.

Here are some things to consider when sharing your news:

Tell your boss first

Your boss will appreciate being the first person you tell in the workplace - not because they’re a gossip but because it shows professionalism. Your boss may feel on the back foot if they are the last person to find out.

Be positive

You don’t need to apologise for being pregnant! Your pregnancy is an exciting piece of news, and a good employer will recognise this. Even if you think your boss will be unhappy with your news, you can still frame it positively. If it’s good for you, it’s good for the workplace. Think of all the multitasking skills you’ll be honing on your maternity leave!

Be prepared

You should read up on your workplace rights before letting your boss know.  It’s always worth reading through your employee handbook to learn about your company’s maternity leave policies.

Be flexible and honest

Your boss might ask questions you don’t know the answer to. Be honest about how you feel. It’s difficult to predict how you will feel during the remaining months of the pregnancy or how you’ll feel after the birth. Be flexible and open during discussions, but don’t be afraid to say no to things.

You don’t need to know exactly how it’s all going to work, though your boss may appreciate hearing any loose plans or ideas you’ve had about your maternity leave. Also, if you’ve thought about when you’d like your maternity leave to start, you should discuss this with your employer as soon as possible.

Put it in writing

Send a follow-up email after the meeting to summarise the points discussed. This will help you keep track of any discussions about your maternity leave. Be sure to include all the topics discussed and any action points you and your boss discussed so you each know what is expected of you.

Pregnant women using the laptop

What if my boss isn't supportive of my pregnancy?

This sucks, but it does happen, so it’s possible your boss won’t be supportive of your pregnancy.  Unfortunately, not all bosses are good bosses. Some can be downright rubbish.

If your boss reacts negatively to your news or treats you differently during your pregnancy, this could leave you feeling worried about your job. If your boss responds negatively, you should:

  • Inform the HR department
    If you work for a large firm with an HR department, you should get them involved as soon as possible. They should ensure your employee rights are protected throughout your pregnancy and beyond.
  • Make notes of any interactions
    You should note down any discussions and comments about your pregnancy. It is essential to keep a record of any discussions so you can refer back to them later if necessary.
  • Know your rights
    The most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to learn your rights. Find out the employment laws and how they relate to your situation. Then, research your company policies and find out what you should be entitled to.

Most employers will share your excitement and congratulate you on your news (even if they're secretly worried about the additional workload it creates). So try not to worry too much before you tell your boss; they may surprise you by being generally lovely.

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