Can my employer dictate when I tell colleagues I am pregnant?

I told my employer I was pregnant earlier than I wanted to as they were asking me to take over an account run by someone else who would be going on maternity leave just before me and so I felt they had to know.

Because of this I asked that they didn’t tell anyone else until after 12 weeks. However, I’m now 18 weeks and they have said they do not want me to tell any colleagues or clients – even ones I’m friendly with outside of work. We were supposed to discuss when I would tell people the other day, but they just avoided it and then casually dropped in that they want to tell clients in mid-Feb, when I’ll be 23/24 weeks. They mentioned nothing about colleagues and I didn’t have a chance to ask.

I feel like it’s putting me in a difficult position because I have to hide my pregnancy on a daily basis. This means I can’t wear my baby on board badge when travelling around London with colleagues. My work also involves a lot of lunches and drinks and I’m having to find lots of excuses not to drink or I end up accepting wine and then subtlety not drinking it.

I also feel it is unprofessional to not tell clients for so long and, as I plan to return to work, I’m concerned this could impact my relationship and reputation with clients as well.

They are also discussing cover on my accounts without including me. I’ve overheard some of the plans by chance and disagree with decisions that are being made. 

I’m friendly with my employers and want to keep everything on good terms, but I feel like I’m being cut out.

How do I bring it up with them whilst keeping things friendly? Also, what rights do I have in this situation? Can they dictate when I tell colleagues / clients and cut me out of cover conversations?

This is a difficult situation as none of your pregnancy-related employment rights would explicitly cover this point.

You do have the right to a risk assessment if your work might involve risk to your pregnancy. This might cover the situation with travel and the baby on board badge and certainly being offered alcohol. It strikes me that your employer might not realise what practical difficulties you are facing by hiding your pregnancy. It might be worth bringing up these two points, as well as your concerns about ongoing relationships with clients, to highlight why you would prefer to be upfront.

Any unfavourable treatment because of pregnancy or maternity leave is unlawful. Cutting you out of plans to cover your maternity leave might be considered unfavourable treatment if you are so senior that this would undermine you. If you do disagree with some of the decisions, you could try giving feedback or suggestions rather than outright stating your objection, giving an opportunity to stress your intention to return and so have a stake in the future of the company and your relationship with clients. This might bring things to a head in terms of figuring out whether the company is merely trying to cope without you without bothering you unduly and inadvertently leaving you out of decisions, or there is something more sinister at work.

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