When you get pregnant (congratulations!), it is essential to start preparing as soon as possible. Yes, physically, mentally and all the lovely baby preparations at home. But also at work. We have highlighted the some key guidance for you below.
Get to grips with the law and your company policies
As soon you find out you are pregnant (or even beforehand if you’re super-organised), familiarise yourself with your organisational policies relating to maternity issues and also flexible working, if you are considering this option for the future. These policies should outline when and how you are expected to inform your company of your pregnancy, and what support you can expect throughout your pregnancy and after the birth of your baby.
It also helps to know what your legal entitlements are as early as possible with regard to maternity pay and leave.
Direct Gov on maternity leave is a great place to start and will give you a detailed personalised statement of your leave and pay entitlements based on your own employment circumstances.
When and how to tell your organisation
Every organisation is different and only you will know the best time to tell your team and manager. It is generally considered best to wait until at least 12 weeks when the risk of miscarriage is significantly reduced. Miscarriage is hard enough without having to explain to all your colleagues.
Ideally, speak to someone you trust first (internally or externally) and work out a strategy together before telling the others. It can help to work through certain questions in advance that you know you are likely to be asked. Preparation for this stage will be hugely beneficial to set the scene for the remainder of the pregnancy.
Questions that you are likely to be asked include:
- When are you due?
- When are you leaving?
- When are you coming back? Are you coming back at all?
- What will happen while you are away? Who will I report to? Who will manage your workload?
It might be (quite reasonably) that you don’t yet have answers to these questions, particularly if you are sharing the news relatively early. But do reassure people that you intend to work out a plan, with their input, over the coming weeks/months. You just need to have worked out a professional response.
Always tell your manager and/or HR before the wider team – it’s not good for this kind of news to be picked up through the grape vine. You can work out a plan together for communicating your pregnancy.
It is generally best to ensure that all official communication you have with your company regarding your pregnancy is done in writing. Keep copies for yourself, and include copies for both your manager and HR. A short e-mail summarising the points discussed and/or agreed upon during a meeting could suffice.
It is really important to keep your image in check. Invest in proper maternity clothes appropriate to your work environment. You will look and feel far better if you know that despite an ever-increasing bump, you still look smart and professional.
Try not to refer to your pregnancy unless expressly asked about it. As much as people are likely to be pleased for you, it is not their primary concern.
Where possible, organise your ante-natal appointments where they are least disruptive to your work, for instance at the beginning or end of the working day. You absolutely have the legal and moral right to attend these appointments, but remember that there is also a business to run. If you treat the organisation with consideration and respect they are far more likely to be accommodating towards you in other ways in the future.
Author: Tamsin Crook, founder of Making Careers Work – a maternity coaching and career support service which helps mums and mums-to-be reach their full potential in their careers within the dynamic context of their family life. As a mum of three boys herself, she understands the desire to try to balance the needs of the family with personal career ambitions – not always straightforward! Tamsin works with women at all stages of motherhood, and is based in Thames Ditton, Surrey.
Tamsin is one of the key contributors to Mum & Career and has written most material on Maternity Leave for us.