Job Hunting While Pregnant
Job hunting while pregnant may be one of the most stressful things you can do.
Even if you have the perfect credentials for the job role, you've aced all of the personality tests and you're the ideal candidate, some employers may feel reluctant to employ someone who is pregnant.
But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't apply for a job during pregnancy. On the contrary, you could argue that those companies who are more than willing to recruit a pregnant person may prove to be family-friendly employers.
And with legislation available to prevent any clear discrimination against pregnant women, the law is undoubtedly on your side.
But when should you disclose your pregnancy to a prospective employer? Should you be clear and upfront at the start of your application or wait until the interview? On the other hand, should you wait until you have already received a job offer before disclosing your pregnancy?
This article gives a brief overview of looking for a job while pregnant, with some unofficial rules for success.
Before we start, let's confirm the legal aspects of job hunting while pregnant.
What Are the Legal Rights of Pregnant Workers in the US?
In the US, workers are protected under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The PDA means that employers are not allowed to discriminate against pregnant women under any circumstances:
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.
— Source: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published a helpful fact sheet outlining the federal expectations regarding pregnant workers. It states:
If you are pregnant, have been pregnant, or may become pregnant, and if your employer has 15 or more employees, you are protected against pregnancy-based discrimination and harassment at work under federal law. You may also have a legal right to work adjustments that will allow you to do your job without jeopardizing your health.
— Source: US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Although the law is clear that discrimination against pregnant people isn't tolerated, it does happen. Unfortunately, it's challenging to prove that you have been discriminated against, particularly when starting a recruitment process.
Different states and cities may have additional legislation in place to protect pregnant women. You may also want to check any local laws relating to family leave, disability or civil rights.
What Are the Legal Rights of Pregnant Workers in the UK?
In the UK, there are heavy rights that are weighted in favor of the pregnant person. This is designed to protect them from discrimination:
Pregnant employees have four primary legal rights: paid time off for antenatal care, maternity leave, maternity pay or maternity allowance protection against unfair treatment, discrimination, or dismissal. 'Antenatal care' is not just medical appointments – it can also include antenatal or parenting classes if a doctor or midwife has recommended them. Employees must tell their employer about the pregnancy at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week the baby is due. If this is not possible (for example, because they did not know they were pregnant), the employer must be told as soon as possible.
— Source: GOV.UK
In the UK, you are well within your rights to keep your pregnancy quiet. However, you must tell your employer at least 15 weeks before the week of your anticipated due date. This is to allow the employer time to arrange statutory shared parental leave.
It may be in your interest to disclose your pregnancy to your employer because you are legally entitled to take time off work for pregnancy-related medical appointments.
Should You Disclose Your Pregnancy?
This is a tricky question, and women will have lots of different opinions about when they should let a potential employer know they are having a baby.
The issue of the disclosure will depend upon how far along you are in your pregnancy. For example, if you are in your first trimester, you may feel that you do not want to say anything until you are sure of the viability of your pregnancy.
Similarly, suppose you are almost eight months along. In that case, you may find it increasingly difficult to hide the visible signs of your pregnancy – especially if you are invited to a face-to-face interview.
Choosing to announce your pregnancy to a potential hiring manager is a complex situation.
On the one hand, you may prefer to keep quiet to ensure that you are not subject to any discrimination or unfair implications. You may want to focus solely on your credentials and your expertise.
But on the other hand, if you do not mention anything and your pregnancy is visible, you may be giving the impression that you are not open and honest. This could lead to the employer having a negative first impression of you.
It's important to remember that it is illegal for an employer to directly ask you about your pregnancy or question you about any plans to have children or expand your family.
There are many different stages of the recruitment process. First is the initial application (including submitting a cover letter and your resume), the pre-screening selection process, the interview, the personality tests, a potential second interview and the resulting job offer.
During these stages, there are many moments when it may feel inappropriate to disclose your pregnancy. For example, you do not need to mention it during your initial application.
Some choose to reveal it during the pre-screening process to avoid awkward conversations later down the line, especially if their pregnancy is advanced.
Others choose to wait until they have received a formal job offer before disclosing their pregnancy. That way, they can feel confident that they haven't been discriminated against.
Finally, some women choose to wait until they have officially started the job before announcing that they are pregnant.
Most women will likely wait until after receiving a formal job offer before making a pregnancy announcement.
This way, the employer has advance notice before your start date, but they cannot rescind the job offer because that would be direct discrimination and is illegal.
If you are questioned on your reasons as to why you hadn't previously mentioned your pregnancy, you could simply state, ‘I wasn't in a position to be able to go public with the news.’
Suppose you disclose your pregnancy early in the recruitment process and the employer continues to provide positive signals that you are a candidate of interest.
In that case, this may give you confidence that this is an excellent company to work for. While some companies will inevitably be nervous about hiring a pregnant person, others will not see it as a barrier at all.
After all, Yahoo famously hired its CEO, Marissa Mayer when she was six months pregnant.
Disclosing your pregnancy early on may provide an accurate impression that you are open and honest. In addition, it could lead to the start of a trusting and respectful relationship between you and your employer.
Whatever you decide, you must consider what is best for you and your family. There are no right or wrong approaches. Each person will have their own opinions on the right decision and the right moment to reveal their pregnancy to a new employer.
What Are the Unofficial Rules When It Comes to Job Hunting While Pregnant?
Now that you know where you stand legally and whether you should decide to disclose your pregnancy or not, it's time to think about the unofficial ‘rules’ that you may choose to follow when job hunting during pregnancy.
Rule 1: Schedule Your Job Hunt to Suit You
Job hunting when you are pregnant will be stressful. There's no getting away from that. But it will help if you find strategies that will minimize your stress as much as possible.
There may be many reasons you choose to look for a new job while preparing to have a baby.
Perhaps you are pregnant and in an unhappy working situation. Maybe you're ready to take the next step on the career ladder. Or you might have a desperate financial requirement to get a new job.
Whatever your circumstances, you should be prepared to put yourself and your body first.
It's always wise to be prepared to make your job hunt as efficient as possible. You may wish to schedule time each morning to search on job boards or write your cover letter.
By thinking logically about what you need to do and what your self-imposed deadlines are, you can control the unknown, which may help improve your efficiency and lower your stress levels.
Once you've passed the application stage, think about what works for you. For example, when you are invited to an interview, it is a request to attend at a particular time or date.
If you know that you will be struggling at that time (perhaps you're suffering from morning sickness or need an afternoon nap), don't be afraid to suggest an alternative time or date.
Again, you do not need to disclose your pregnancy at this stage, but you need to feel confident to recommend a time that suits you.
If you have decided to disclose your pregnancy, you need to ensure that the conversation focuses on your skills and career history. You do not want your pregnancy to be the hot topic of conversation during the interview.
Not only does that put the employer on shaky ground (as they are not allowed to ask you for your intentions during the interview), but you want to feel confident that you are being approached for your skills.
Rule 2: Think About All Eventualities
Before your interview, you may want to prepare yourself for how you plan to facilitate parenthood with work.
For example, you could allude to:
- How you plan to manage work and family life
- How you plan to transition back to work
- How you can prepare for any work in advance of maternity leave
But remember – your employer cannot directly ask you about this.
Think about what your plans are for working after the birth. You do not need to give a cast-iron guarantee that you will return within just a few weeks, but you may want to consider whether you plan to work full-time or part-time. Have you and your partner discussed how you plan to handle childcare or finances if you work fewer hours?
This is far more complex in the US than it is in the UK.
In the UK, pregnant people are legally required to take a minimum of six weeks' maternity leave post-birth to allow them time to recover and bond with the baby. Beyond that, Shared Parental Leave is available for up to 12 months, allowing both parents time to stay at home and care for the child while benefiting from statutory pay.
However, in the US, women often take much shorter maternity leave. You may need to consider what benefits you are entitled to and whether you have access to healthcare insurance. You may want to research how family-friendly the employer is – will they allow you to work from home? Is there a generous paid-time-off policy?
You may also need to be aware that if you are job hunting when pregnant, you will not be eligible for protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act(FMLA). Different states may have their own legislation, but you will need to have worked for an employer for at least 12 months to gain FMLA eligibility.
Rule 3: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask the Employer Questions
It's always worth reiterating that interviews are two-way streets. It's not just about you trying to impress a recruiter. It's also about the company trying to sell themselves to you.
Don't be afraid to ask the interviewer questions about their family-friendly policies. When job hunting while pregnant, you need to feel confident that the job will adapt to your changing circumstances.
For example, will they allow flexible working hours? Do they offer childcare vouchers as an employee benefit? How physical is the job – will it involve lots of standing up or physical labor?
Will allowances be made for you to help you cope with the demands of the job during your final months of pregnancy? Are the hours set times, or are they varying shifts – if so, how much notice will you have to allow you to arrange childcare?
Before your interview, do your research carefully. Think about what you may need during pregnancy, in the first few months of parenthood and beyond. Your needs will change over time, so you need to feel confident that you are working for an employee who will offer you flexibility and freedom.
If you're in the UK, various statutory schemes are available that are designed to make life easier for working parents. For example, childcare vouchers, tax-free childcare and other benefits are often available for employees, so why not ask the hiring manager if they can detail what incentives are available?
Rule 4: Experienced Employers May Be More Family-Friendly
You may feel that a small firm may have greater flexibility, but often these companies do not have pre-agreed family policies in place. You may find that larger employers are more likely to be the companies that have long-standing, reputable family-friendly policies.
Before you submit any applications, take the time to research the employers in full. Often, firms will detail information about their family-friendly approaches in their recruitment campaigns.
For example, many companies will actively target new parents because they know candidates often have exceptional skills and capabilities. In addition, they understand that by working flexibly, they can attract a broader, more skilled pool of candidates.
You may want to look for firms that have appointed many women to executive positions. Firms in the UK over a specific size are legally obliged to publish a gender pay-gap report outlining their commitment to equality.
In addition, companies that have many women in executive positions may be more likely to offer family-friendly policies or more flexible working opportunities.
If you are in the US, you may want to see if the prospective employer has published details of their maternity leave policies. If they offer a generous scheme, it may be a good indicator that they are an excellent employer to work for.
Job Hunting While Pregnant Is Tricky – But Not Impossible
It's important not to feel downhearted when searching for a job while pregnant. It may feel trickier, but there should be no difference from a legal perspective because employers are not allowed to discriminate against pregnant women.
If you are looking for a new job while pregnant, there are many more aspects to consider than you may have realized.
In a 'typical' job hunt, your sole concern may be about finding a job role that meets your professional expectations, offers you the opportunity to develop new skills and has a good remuneration package.
However, your priorities will change during pregnancy and motherhood. It's essential to consider practical requirements such as:
- Can you get to daycare before your working hours begin?
- Can you take time off for medical appointments?
You may need to look beyond the here and now to think about what that employer could offer you in the future. If it seems they are a good fit for you, you can feel more confident that you are in the right job for years to come.
Once you're in the interview process, it's entirely your decision about whether you want to disclose your pregnancy during the interview. As mentioned earlier, there are advantages and disadvantages to announcing it or remaining quiet. It's essential to think about what you are comfortable with.
There is no right or wrong answer, and you may find that your approach will depend on different employers. You may feel during one interview that you are happy to disclose your pregnancy, yet think that you should remain quiet in another.
The most important thing you can do when job hunting while pregnant is to remain as calm and stress-free as possible.
Taking a sensible, logical approach to job hunting will allow you to truly find the best match for you and your skills, as well as your changing lifestyle.