Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Just found out your pregnant? Way to go! When should you tell your employer the news?
I guess you want to tell EVERYONE. I remember when I heard that my first child was on the way… I had to bite my lip everytime I had the urge to tell someone. My wife was just the same.
Before you tell anyone at work, you need to understand your rights, and consider the health risks and hazards. You need to be armed with the knowledge, just in case the announcement doesn’t go to plan.
Will Your Pregnancy Affect Your Job?
Quite possibly. Before I go into your rights, I should mention that in some cases, early disclosure is very important.
If you’re in a job that involves hazards, then this may require you to tell your boss as soon as you can. I mean…
- Jobs that involve heavy lifting or operating heavy machinery
- Jobs that require you to be exposed to hazardous chemicals
- Do you work with animals? Then your baby is potentially at risk from the blighters bugs and diseases
- Jobs that require you to work for long hours
- Jobs that require you to stand or sit for long periods
In these cases, your pregnancy really will affect your job.
Even in jobs that are considered ‘safe’ compared to those listed above, it’s likely that you will have to make some adjustments in your work pattern and environment. Your body will be undergoing significant changes!
- If you’re in a desk-job, you must have your work environment checked over so that is setup for comfort and ergonomics
- You could suffer from ‘morning sickness’ which could impact your journey to your workplace
- If you work in an environment with strong odors, you may feel nauseous
- You’ll probably take many more bathroom breaks
- It’s likely that your speed of movement will be impaired later on in your pregnancy
- Discrimination aside, your co-workers will probably treat you differently
In the US, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission monitors discrimination and complaints against employers. Pregnancy-bias complaints recorded have surged to more than up 40% from a decade ago. The U.S. Federal law protects you from pregnancy discrimination – The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (1978) – passed to prohibit discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The main points of this act are:
- An employer may not single out pregnancy-related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee’s ability to work. However, if an employer requires its employees to submit a doctor’s statement concerning their inability to work before granting leave or paying sick benefits, the employer may require employees affected by pregnancy-related conditions to submit such statements.
- If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job because of her pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, if the employer allows temporarily disabled employees to modify tasks, perform alternative assignments, or take disability leave or leave without pay, the employer also must allow an employee who is temporarily disabled because of pregnancy to do the same.
- Pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs. If an employee has been absent from work as a result of a pregnancy-related condition and recovers, her employer may not require her to remain on leave until the baby’s birth. An employer also may not have a rule that prohibits an employee from returning to work for a predetermined length of time after childbirth.
- Employers must hold open a job for a pregnancy-related absence the same length of time jobs are held open for employees on sick or disability leave.
When MUST You Tell Your Employer About Your Pregnancy?
The general rule is that you should inform your employer 15 weeks before your baby is due. The Family and Medical Leave Act stipulates that pregnant women working in organizations of 50+ employees have the right to a combination of paid and unpaid leave of twelve weeks (equivalent) to care for a newborn. The act also emphasizes that employees have the right to a leave of absence in the case of pregnancy-related medical problems. Any time off MUST be paid at your normal rate of pay. It’s also against the law for your employer to refuse to pay you at your normal rate of pay, or reject your requests for reasonable time off for ante-natal care.
Can You Be Fired As A Pregnant Worker?
Yes! No more or less than any other worker. You can be fired for breach of contract. You can still be caught up in lay-offs.
However, employers cannot single you out for worse treatment.
If you receive health insurance by your employer, then the policy must cover expenses for pregnancy-related conditions on the same basis as costs for other medical conditions. If you incur medical costs related to your pregnancy, then they should be reimbursed just like any other costs incurred for other medical conditions.
If your employer provides benefits to workers on leave, then they must provide you with the same benefits. If you’re also on leave because of any pregnancy-related conditions or illness, then they must be treated the same as other temporarily disabled employees, e.g. vacation calculation, pay increases, bonuses and temporary disability benefits.
Now You Know Your Rights…
Choose the right time to tell your boss – at least 15 weeks before your baby is due, unless you work with hazards that increase the risk to your baby. Have a smooth pregnancy!