It has to be the one of the strangest moments: communicating the most personal of information about yourself and your body to a human being you usually only have a professional relationship with. And often after trying to hide bouts of morning sickness and extreme fatigue while maintaining business as usual. No wonder it can go so horribly wrong!
What’s more, research by the Australian Human Rights Commission has found that 1 in 2 women experience some form of pregnancy related discrimination. All of which can impact a parent-to-be’s confidence, mental health and financial security.
So, how do you tell your boss you’re pregnant AND keep your career on track?
Here are our top 5 tips#1. Know your rights.
We advocate for you to have an understanding of your rights & responsibilities, not so that you can take action if things go wrong (although it is an option), but so that you can use your understanding of your rights to script an informed communication to your boss.
Key rights you should be aware of include:
- Under the Sex Discrimination Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against – or treat differently – an employee on the basis of, for example, their sex, pregnancy, potential pregnancy, family responsibilities or because they are breastfeeding.
- Discrimination can be either direct, or indirect. Direct discrimination happens when a person is treated in a way that disadvantages them because they are pregnant, breastfeeding or have family responsibilities. For example, being told you are not eligible to apply for a different role because you are pregnant.
- Indirect discrimination happens when there is a rule that seems to apply to everyone, but in actual fact disadvantages a certain group of people – for example, restricting breaks to fixed times may discriminate against pregnant women who require more toilet breaks or lactation breaks.
- The Fair Work Act also makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of pregnancy, sex, family or carer’s responsibilities, or to take adverse action against an employee because they have the right to take parental leave, have exercised the right to take parental leave or propose not to exercise the right to take parental leave
You should also check out your workplace’s parental leave policy to understand:
- How long before you take parental leave you need to advise your workplace (usually 10 weeks);
- What your paid leave entitlements are;
- Who you need to notify.
#2. Integrate your professional vision It’s one of our favourite tools – your professional vision is like your elevator pitch for your career. And when you use it at the same time you are telling your boss you’re pregnant, it challenges their unconscious (and sometimes conscious) biases, because it reminds them of your ambition, your potential, and your talent.
Don’t have a professional vision? No problem, in our easy to use online programs, you can simply jump into Step 1 (for free because your employer is a partner of ours), and in under 25 mins you’ll have an instagram-worthy vision board and vision statement to go with it. Just click here to login
#3. Think about your timing While common practice is to communicate this news around the end of your first trimester, and the risk of miscarriage significantly reduces, there are many reasons for sharing this news sooner or later.
If, for example, you’re experiencing morning sickness or other pregnancy related complications, you may need to share your news with your boss earlier. Check out our article on tips for managing severe morning sickness at work. Similarly, if you’re looking at a promotion or moving into a new role, you’re on an important deal, or its performance review time, you may want to hold off from telling your manager, to ensure that biases don’t creep in to the decision making process. Of course, sometimes it can work in your favour – check out our article on “A job offer and a positive pregnancy test – should you tell?”
#4. Be respectful & professional While its your private information, it can be really advantageous to share your news with your boss before they find about it from your team. And, done well, your boss can be your sponsor – someone who has your back and uses their chips to support you as you start to share this news with other team members and stakeholders in your workplace. Think about how you would like to experience this conversation as a people leader, and set the tone for the conversation accordingly.
#5. Anticipate biases Think about your boss’ life. What does it look like and what are their potential biases towards the information you are about to share? This information doesn’t necessarily mean that your leader isn’t inclusive or empathetic towards expectant parents, but unconscious biases are a powerful and real thing. And, well, unconscious.
Ask yourself the following so you can start to think about your manager’s potential blind spots:
- My manager is a parent. Y/N
- My manager has taken parental leave. Y/N
- My manager has a partner who also has a career. Y/N
- My manager encourages both men and women to work flexibly. Y/N
- My manager supports other working parents in our team. Y/N
- Males and females are equally represented in my team. Y/N
- My manager is an advocate for working parents. Y/N
- My manager works or has worked flexibly. Y/N
Use these insights to inform your communication.
For step by step support to create the perfect pregnancy pitch for your stakeholder, login to your program, and head to Step 3.