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Congratulations! You’ve just found out you are pregnant, and you could not be more excited. Juggling a baby and a career is no mean feat, no matter whether it was a planned pregnancy or just a lovely surprise. Before you even get to that point, you will have to let your place of work know about your big news, so here are some ways to tackle that first hurdle.
Most people tend to wait until after the initial 12 weeks as, after this date, the risk of miscarriage is significantly reduced, but it’s important to consider your announcement in context. For example, you might already be feeling the effects (e.g. tiredness) and working with food or drink can be a tricky business if you’re crippled with morning sickness.
Similarly, if you work in an industry with potential risks to you and your baby’s health (perhaps a police officer or working with chemicals) it’s wise to say as early as possible. Anything that could be harmful to you or your baby should be identified and prepared for as early as possible – and that counts for stress, long hours or manual labour too.
You might be anticipating a less than enthusiastic reaction, but these ‘Big Conversations’ should always be done face-to-face. Schedule an appointment, choose a venue that isn’t public, and you, and your boss, will be in a much better position to iron out the details after you’ve announced your news.
Tell your boss before your colleagues
It sounds obvious, but even if your closest friends are your work allies, gossip can spread like wildfire in an office. It might be the biggest secret you’ve ever kept (or it might be obvious if you decide to wait a few months down the line) but the last thing you need is your news getting through to your line manager via word of mouth – you want to be seen to be respectful and prepared.
This clearly depends on what industry you work in, but it is always important to have a plan. Have an idea of your leaving date, but you don’t have to promise (legally) to return if you’re not sure you want to.
Of course, your managers will more than likely worry if the business is approaching a particularly busy time of year, so have some strategies ready for how the workload will be carried on as normal in the run-up to, and during your maternity leave. Think about who might be best placed to take over your key responsibilities, and how a handover might work. Consider suggesting how client relationships (if applicable) can be maintained in your absence.
Get clued up on what you are entitled to. Your employment rights are protected when you’re on statutory maternity leave, which includes your right to return to work, but it’s worth reading up on it. The gov.uk website is a good place to start for an overview and check your contract for your organisation’s individual practices and policies.
Also, if you’re going for an interview when you’re pregnant, there’s absolutely no obligation to tell your interviewer, but just consider what’s easiest for you – now, or when you start? Remember, interviews are two-way processes, so it’s worth getting some insight into how ‘family friendly’ the firm is.
Whether you’re hoping to come back part time, or have more flexible hours, you will need to prove you can still do the job or offer an alternative to how it could work. Pull out your personal development record and highlight your strengths, and what you have brought to the business during your time there. It’s about showcasing why you’re so invaluable, and how having you back on your terms is significantly better than not having you back at all.
One option which works for many of our candidates is to suggest a period of grace, and perhaps the opportunity for trial days or keeping in touch days in the run-up to your official return date. Trial the nursery run, meet the team (and any new additions) and attend a couple of meetings to get back into the swing of things. It’ll show commitment to your firm and a hunger to get back on track as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Don’t be tempted to apologise – as much as this might be a juggling act for you and your management team, this is a momentous event for you, and everyone should be thrilled. Congratulations!
*Louise Carling is a HR recruitment expert at Macildowie.