HR Headaches: How and When Should I Tell My Boss I’m Pregnant?

October 5, 2023・5 mins read
HR Headaches: How and When Should I Tell My Boss I’m Pregnant?

With an undeniably high nationwide labor force participation rate for women — 56.8 percent total in 2022, with the participation rate of those of prime childbearing ages being more than 77 percent¹ — you’d think U.S. workplaces would have gotten with the program by now. Why is it, then, that determining when to tell work you’re pregnant can be anxiety provoking? Even pondering just how to tell HR you are pregnant might be daunting if it feels like a challenging conversation to navigate. And while it may seem like telling everyone as soon as possible is the most professional route, doing so could lead you to being overlooked for upcoming projects (even though this might be considered discrimination). And that could impact your professional development and your path toward promotions and raises.

On the other hand, employers may find that you sharing the news too late is unprofessional. Finding and training a temporary replacement is a significant undertaking that requires time. Although this is an expected activity in any company employing people who may become parents, waiting too long to start this process can cause undue stress that you can prevent with appropriate notice.

So there’s no blanket answer to when to tell work about pregnancy. In short, you should balance the timing that works best for your career and is most respectful to your employer.

What are the legal requirements for notice and my legal rights?

There is no legal requirement that dictates when to disclose your pregnancy. However, some employees naturally feel anxious about when to share the news with their managers. Should I tell my boss I’m pregnant at eight weeks, so he has plenty of time to prepare for my absence? Should I wait until I’m showing, when she’s bound to get curious? And from an employee rights perspective, when should I tell my employer I am pregnant in order to best protect my job and rights?

Legally speaking, if your company is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, then you just need to request leave at least 30 days in advance before taking off to give birth.

That being said, it’s a good idea to let your manager know earlier than your last month of pregnancy. One reason to share that you’re pregnant earlier rather than later is to reduce any anxiety associated with keeping a secret when interacting with colleagues.

Legal rights

Moreover, you’re legally protected from discrimination: “The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment.”

Unfortunately, even though the law protects pregnant people from discrimination in the workplace, thousands of pregnancy discrimination claims get filed each year. For example, if you tell your boss that you can’t lift heavy objects during your pregnancy, it’s their responsibility to make adjustments. Put differently, your employer has to make the same accommodations for you as they would for workers with a disability.

There are steps you can take if you think you’re being discriminated against for being pregnant. These include reporting the incident to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Fair Employment Practices Agencies and ensuring you’re putting self-care first. Eat well, get your rest and take your sick days when you need them.

It’s important to put your health, and your baby’s health, first. For women with reason to suspect they will face discrimination, hastening when to tell HR about pregnancy might help prevent it or at least strengthen their case if they take formal action.

When should I tell my employer I’m pregnant?

Under normal circumstances, one popular recommendation is to notify your employer at the end of the first trimester (12-13 weeks). Around this time, some women begin to show, and the risk of miscarriage is lower. Your manager will also appreciate the early notice, which affords plenty of time to discuss your leave and work out a proper transition plan for your replacement.

There are instances in which you may need to disclose your pregnancy earlier. For example: if you’re feeling unwell early on and need to take more time out for doctor appointments, or if you’re experiencing significant morning sickness.

Some women wait a little longer if an important decision is being made about their career at the company. For example, if you’re up for a promotion, you might want to wait until that decision has been made before telling your manager. While discrimination is illegal, you’ll never know for sure that your pregnancy wasn’t a factor in not receiving a promotion.

Timing is contextual for your working situation, but most women inform their manager toward the end of the first trimester.

How should I share the news?

It may be tempting to share your pregnancy with your work friends before your manager. However, it’s important to let your manager know first. You want to avoid them hearing about your pregnancy indirectly, from someone else.

When you are ready to share the news, make sure to schedule a time to have that conversation directly. Be sure to start on a positive note — by sharing that you’re pregnant and your due date. You can then discuss the next steps for a handover plan and training your replacement. Give your manager the opportunity to celebrate your happy news while naturally flowing into a discussion about a transition plan. Confirm the details of your conversation in writing, via email, to ensure all parties are on the same page.

Knowing when to tell your employer about your pregnancy can be stressful. However, with most working women having children at some point during their career, it’s far from a rare conversation. Know that you have protection from discrimination and any consequences for being pregnant. And, congratulations aside, you should get exactly the same treatment as your colleagues do.

1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Economics Daily release, March 2023
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