Pregnancy announcements often involve a lot of thoughtful planning, but breaking the news to one person in particular can prove to be especially tricky - your boss.
Of course, your boss will no doubt be thrilled for you, however when you utter the words "I'm pregnant", you may see a flash of panic flicker across their face before they break out the congratulations.
"Most employers worry about replacing any employee for significant periods," says Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at CIPD, the professional body for HR in the UK.
"So don't be surprised if their initial reaction is to be a bit taken aback.
"You might think: why don’t they understand? The answer is they may understand and be genuinely happy for you, but they have also got their own problems to think about."
So how should you handle this sensitive conversation?
1. Timing is key.
You are only legally required to tell your boss you're pregnant by the 15th week before your baby is due, and many women - including Alesha Dixon - choose to wait quite some time before telling their employer and colleagues.
In the AOL Original video series Being Mum, Dixon revealed that she managed to keep her pregnancy secret for a whole six months while filming Britain's Got Talent.
Speaking to Tess Daly about being pregnant with her daughter Azura (now one year old), Dixon said:
"Well I was doing the show at the time and I thought oh God, how are we going to handle this during Britain's Got Talent? I just didn't want to make a big deal about it.
"It became a bit of a fun game, like how long could we actually keep this quiet? And I managed to get to six months without anyone knowing.
"I would sit there and the buzzers would go off and she’d start kicking. It would just be so surreal."
However, it can be helpful to tell you boss sooner and many women choose to do so after their 12 week scan.
"The more time for planning and preparation you (and your employer) have before you leave, the easier both of you will find it when you return," says Abigail Wood, public affairs manager at the NCT.
"Also, an employer’s specific duty of care for a pregnant employee does not come into effect until they are informed of your pregnancy."
An earlier announcement will mean your boss will be better able to support you and allow you time off for doctors appointments and NCT classes - and will mean they may be more understanding if you experience morning sickness.
"Employers are also required to reduce risks to the expectant mother and baby to the lowest acceptable level which might sometimes involve an alternation to the kinds of tasks you are expected to undertake at work, for example heavy lifting," adds Wood.
An early announcement also means there is less chance of your boss finding out about your pregnancy via water cooler gossip.
"It’s a good idea to tell your boss you’re pregnant first so they find out directly from you rather than another colleague," says Wood.
2. Approach the meeting as you would any other business meeting - professionally.
You may well be good friends with your boss, but remember that you're telling them you're pregnant as a colleague rather than as a mate.
Once you have made this announcement then you can go back to talking about your pregnancy on a more casual basis, but for this meeting keep things professional and stick to the facts.
"You might be anticipating a less than enthusiastic reaction, but these ‘Big Conversations’ should always be done face-to-face," advises Louise Carling, HR recruitment specialist at Macildowie.
"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."
Wood adds: "Being professional and prepared will enable you to reassure your manager of your commitment and increase your ability to make a smooth transition."
3. Enter the meeting armed with information.
Spend some time thinking about the following before the meeting:
• Know your goals and career aspirations.
• Know your key achievements and demonstrate your value.
• Understand your organisation’s practices and policies.
• Understand your legal rights.
• Be prepared to discuss your options for flexible working and ask how it could affect your job and career in the future.
• Know (or have an idea of) your important dates, such as your baby’s due date, dates of antenatal appointments and dates for maternity leave as well as your qualifying week (the 15th week before expected week of childbirth).
• Be prepared to agree dates to create a handover plan, keep in touch plan, performance review and back to work plan.
"Think about who might be best placed to take over your key responsibilities, and how a handover might work," advises Carling.
"Consider suggesting how client relationships (if applicable) can be maintained in your absence.
"If you’re certain you want to come back to work afterwards, but would like more flexible hours, 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 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.
"Legally, you don’t have to promise at this point to return if you’re not sure you want to.
"Should you decide to leave, you will need to give your employer notice as per the terms of your employment."
4. Worried that your boss won't be best pleased about the news?
"If you have concerns, share them with your HR department before informing your manager of your pregnancy," advises Wood.
"It might also be helpful to read your company’s policy documents with regard to pregnancy and maternity leave, so you’re aware of your rights and entitlements.
"Of course, your manager 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."
5. What happens next?
After you’ve told your boss in person, you must put it in writing that you are pregnant, when your baby is due, and when you want your maternity leave to start.
You may also be asked for a medical certificate as proof (known as a MATB1), which can be obtained from your midwife or GP.
After your employer has received this, they must write to you within 28 days with confirmation of when your maternity leave starts and ends.
6. What if, despite your best efforts, your boss still takes the news badly?
"If you feel you can, raise your concerns with your boss," says Wood.
"You might just need to point out they are making you feel uncomfortable or awkward.
"If you feel you need to speak to someone else, your HR department should be able to deal with any issues.
Carling adds: "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.
"But do 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.
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.
If your employer is still being tricky, you may need to make a complaint through your HR team or grievance procedure, or contact your trade union or Citizen’s Advice.
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