A typical job search can be stressful. Add in pregnancy, and you up the anxiety ante. Should you disclose pregnancy while job searching and once you secure an interview?
If in your first trimester, you have several weeks before you begin to show, but if you’re further along in your pregnancy, you may feel tempted to dress in baggy clothing for an interview. If you don’t disclose your pregnancy and you accept a job, you risk breaking trust and damaging your professional relationships due to your nondisclosure. Whatever choice you make, you take the risk of rejection — that point is, unfortunately, a fact.
As with any matter, it’s best to weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision. Waiting to disclose your pregnancy doesn’t mean you’re not an untrustworthy employee, but trusting prospective employers with appropriate disclosure may leave you with more options than you think.
What the Law Says Regarding Pregnancy and Work
More facts: An applicant is not required to disclose her pregnancy by law during an interview, showing or not.
It’s illegal to deny a candidate a job due to sex discrimination, and pregnancy falls under that prohibited employer practice umbrella. It’s also illegal for a previous employer to give a negative reference to a prospective employer because of pregnancy. If hired, employers may not harass or discriminate against you during training or let you go due to pregnancy.
These facts should put your mind at ease somewhat, but you may still ask: What stops an employer from digging hard enough to find a just cause for termination? Your employer may force you out if you’ve been chronically late to work or failed to meet other duties, even though you worked to rehabilitate such behavior, as their reasoning for termination. Always do your best to fulfill your job duties.
An employer may outright reject you, whether you disclose your pregnancy or not, and you may never know the reason since most rejection notices are brief and don’t give away details. You don’t want to work for a judgy employer or in a negative work culture that affects your pregnancy and professional development.
Beyond the job search, you must also consider the law regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Most know that a mother may use 12 weeks of FMLA leave for prenatal care, childbirth, and incapacity or serious illness after birthing a child. However, these 12 weeks are only available to employed mothers after a year at the job and at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months at a location with at least 50 employees within 75 miles. The employee must provide the employer with 30 days’ notice, or as practical, with sufficient details.
Only 12 percent of companies offer paid leave during maternity, and the U.S. lags behind other countries when it comes to adequate maternity policies. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to negotiate or search for what you deserve.
If you’re already pregnant, why worry about FMLA if you won’t be eligible anyway? You must know about your rights for the future and decide if a job search is right for you right now, if you have that freedom. If hired for a new job, it’s possible the employer has their own generous policies in place regarding maternity leave or flexible work options for working moms.
Life Happens, and Pregnancy Disclosure Could Open Doors
One new mother, Rubina Madan Fillion, started her new job as a digital engagement editor at 25 weeks pregnant, and she didn’t know she was pregnant when interviewing with her recruiter. Fillion got the job in her second trimester, and the employer response was “Congrats.” Interestingly, her new job was at a brand new company that decided to create a maternity policy offering at least 12 weeks of paid leave.
While you may be lucky to land a job with a family-friendly employer, that’s not always the case. It doesn’t mean the employer wouldn’t be or isn’t open to discussing flexible work options. The employer needs to know they can provide you with proper accommodations without jeopardizing their business and trust you’ll do your best on the job no matter what, within reason.
Freelancers already make up 36 percent of the workforce, and they’re projected to make up half of the workforce by 2027. The way business is done is changing: 54 percent of those surveyed, freelancers and non-freelancers, didn’t feel confident the work they were doing now would exist in 20 years. Working as a flex-time employee is different than being self-employed or working as a contractor — your income is typically stable, but you still possess reasonable flexibility with your workload and schedule.
Flexible work options allow you to achieve a better work-life balance, and many professional duties at the office can be conducted at home. What about working half days or particular shifts? What accommodations or options are available? You won’t know unless you’re honest and investigate further. Your disclosure presents an opportunity for the company to analyze its current policies regarding family leave and flexible work schedules — options that more companies are beginning to consider because of the changing labor force.
Strategize Your Job Search as an Expectant Mother
Regardless of whether or not you choose to disclose your pregnancy, or when, strategize and target your job search based on your skills, pregnancy and professional development goals. For example, while you may be tempted to accept any paying job, you don’t want to take on a job that requires heavy lifting or movements you won’t be capable of doing in a few months — and without anyone to help you out.
It’s advisably ethical to speak up when you need the job you earned the interview for and are asked: Is there anything that would prevent you from fulfilling the described duties? What’s considered highly ethical isn’t always realistic.
Inexperienced employers may worry you’re not able to perform your job duties, and many women fear the unspoken bias of pregnancy discrimination that is often hard to prove. Yet, it’s not impossible: 4,778 charges of pregnancy discrimination were solved by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2002, along with $10 million recovered in financial benefits for those who filed the charges. If you want to pursue this route, keep detailed records of your experiences and correspondence.
The question still stands: Would you really want to work for that type of employer? Not disclosing your pregnancy at first doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad employee. Women face many challenges on their pregnancy and professional journeys, and introducing such personal information early on leaves them in a mentally, emotionally and physically vulnerable position.
When strategizing your job search, your reasons for nondisclosure may revolve around more sensitive concerns, such as fear of miscarriage. You want to take the necessary tests to make sure your little one is healthy. You may also be receiving fertility treatments or using a surrogate and want to wait for privacy reasons to see how it goes. These cases are certainly understandable.
There’s No Reward Without Risk
Disclosing a pregnancy comes with the risk of rejection, but also the opportunity for acceptance and revolution in the workplace. Many employers unfairly judge the ability of pregnant professionals to continue working at their best levels, but many also do not. Many employers see the valuable team player in her professional glory, baby bump and all. They eagerly hire her, realize life happens and work to get her acclimated, even creating new maternity leave and flexible work options.
Life presents you with risks every day. Weighing the pros and cons of pregnancy disclosure isn’t an easy task, and it adds to your stress levels as you search. Don’t let it. Just as you see your pregnancy as bringing new life into the world, see your job search in a more determined and positive light. Your pregnancy challenges you and presents you with the opportunity to find an even better fit professionally.
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