Should I Tell My Boss I'm Pregnant?

Pregnant and considering applying for that promotion at work? PSP working mothers debate the ethics of whether to disclose or not to disclose during the interviewing process.

Original Poster asks:

“I just started my 2nd trimester and was intending to tell my boss this week when I found out that there's an internal opening for a management position that I'd like to go for. My current boss is also one of the hiring managers for that position, which now makes my decision feel a little tricky. I don't want the pregnancy and impending maternity leave to impact my chances of getting the job so I wonder if making it "official" by telling her is a bad idea. However, I also know how slowly this process goes and it could be a month or more before they even begin interviews at which point, I'm pretty sure it will be pretty obvious by then anyway and then I run the risk of making her mad that I wasn't upfront about it with her (we have a relatively decent relationship though it's not as if we're chummy or anything like that). I would love any thoughts as to how to navigate this. If I were going for a job with an interviewer I didn't know, it wouldn't even cross my mind to disclose anything but considering that the hiring manager is also my current manager, I feel as if I owe her the courtesy of telling her myself. I also don't even know if I have a real shot at this job anyway so all this fretting could be for nothing. If you are in a hiring position, would you consider hiring a pregnant woman?”




Don’t tell your boss:

“I wouldn't if I were in your shoes, given the possibility of promotion. I didn't tell my bosses until I was five months pregnant and had had my amnio results. I wore a lot of sweatshirts toward the end of the secrecy period... there are definitely ways to conceal it with clothing. Suit jackets, scarves, big sweaters. Good luck!”


Tell your boss. It’s the ethical thing to do:

I disagree with the common belief that it’s perfectly fine to hide your pregnancy from the employer from whom you are seeking a job.  Notwithstanding the validity of providing legal protection from adverse job actions for pregnant women, it still seems unethical to me to apply for a new job with greater responsibilities without being upfront about the fact that you know you’ll be absent and not available to do that job at a certain time in the very near future.  Perhaps it can be worked out for you to have that new job despite your childcare leave, and upfront discussion will determine if that’s possible.  If it can’t really be worked out without burdening the workplace, you’ll be leaving everyone in the lurch when you disclose your situation after getting the new job.   I think that kind of calculated non-disclosure of a highly relevant fact does a disservice to all women in the workforce and validates the stereotype that women are not reliable employees because they suddenly disappear because of pregnancy and motherhood.  


Don’t tell your boss. It could unconsciously influence their decision:

“I haven't been in this situation, but I don't think I would tell her. You are under no obligation to tell them anything and I do think that unconsciously it could influence her decision were she to know. Also people tend to be super clueless about pregnancies. So keep wearing baggy clothes and people may not even notice for a couple more months. Good luck!”


Don’t tell your boss (yet):

“I assume you know they can't make a decision factoring in your pregnancy. But, I would generally err on the side of not telling unless I were at the point in my pregnancy where it would become obvious. Some people announce at 3 mos but don't physically have to so in that case I probably would delay and put in for the role without any concerns about not disclosing "out of courtesy." But you are further along and probably can't delay too much longer. So, I would apply and announce but I would have two separate conversations  if possible (ie don't announce during the interview) so each conversation is focused on the matter at hand. And I would probably have the convo about the pregnancy second if timing were possible. I am very curious to hear others on this though as it is a complex situation many of us face and while the answer and outcome should be the same regardless, my guess is that's not how it actually works...sigh…”


Don’t tell your boss. It’s none of their business:

“The same situation happened at my current job. I chose not to disclose my pregnancy. It really is none of their business and like you, I did not want it to impact their decision. Luckily, I carry my pregnancies very small, so it was easy to conceal. I did get the promotion and disclosed my pregnancy a couple of weeks later. I told them I wanted to complete all of my prenatal testing, anatomy scan, etc.... before going public. I was a little over 20 weeks at the time. I realize you are further along in your pregnancy at this point, but I still believe it is really none of their business. This is certainly a tricky situation. I wish you the best of luck!”


Tell your boss. When you are ready, be up front:

“Planning well for my pregnancy during my absence was important to me so I was upfront. But only when I was ready to share - I still waited until almost 5 months as was nervous following unsuccessful prior pregnancy. So if the only thing holding you back is the promotion I would consider carefully at what point to bring your employer in. At some point you will have to make the plan. Having said that I would like to think workplaces and employers are fairer than they are and that a finite period of future absence should not be the basis for the best hire. If you strongly suspect that might not be the case in your workplace then I would fully support you working the system to ensure the best outcome.”


Don’t decide until you’ve spoken to an HR specialist and lawyer:

“Although you have every right to do so, not all employers are going to look at it the same way. Not disclosing your pregnancy can be viewed as a betrayal of trust. Even if you receive the promotion, while you are gone, they may find a way to make changes in your office. As awful as it sounds, I believe that there are ways of getting around discrimination laws? Possibly by creating new positions, restructuring or reorganizing a department,  etc,  which essentially makes your position no longer needed and hand you a less supervisory role when you return. I'm not a lawyer,  but I believe that these are possible scenarios. Maybe someone on the list can clarify?  I say this because I have a friend who was in a similar situation and although she was promised 3 months maternity leave, they "implied" that her department may making future changes so she opted to only take the required 6 weeks in fear of losing her promotion.  And possibly there aren't legal ways to restructure positions, but many people fear losing their job especially if you are an "at will employee."  I'm just playing devils advocate , but maybe speak with someone you know in an HR role? They are bound to know employment rights, but they may give you an "honest" opinion about your situation.  Sometimes what is "legal" may not always be what plays out. Sorry to sound like such a cynic.”


Tell your boss. It’s not a legal issue, but an ethical one:

“I'm going against the tide, but I believe it is unethical to apply for that job without revealing your pregnancy. Your condition and impending long absence are HUGE factors in the company's ability to plan and allocate staff and other resources in the future (especially if it's a small company, which employ the majority of American workers). The decision of whether to reveal your condition involves more than just "what's the bare minimum legal protection I have if I take a job and almost immediately demand 12 weeks or more off." Or, as you implied in your question, "What if my boss is mad at me for applying for the job without telling her I'm pregnant?" [SUCH a girly question: Wah! What if she's mad at me?] Most responders have replied with some nod to the legal requirements in dealing with pregnant employees. So I would just add:  do you want to live in a world where everyone abides by the law but nobody abides by non-legal ethics or etiquette? Think:  zero murders, zero robberies, zero thank-you notes, zero attempts to return lost items to their rightful owners. A strict following of the law might not lead to the nirvana people envision.”


Tell your boss. Put yourself in your her shoes:

“Only you know the parties involved and the people making the decisions, and the culture of the environment at your work. So you should follow your instincts and do what you think is right for your own situation. But if you want to hear another take. You said this was a promotion to be a manager, so this will be a good question to ask how you would feel as a manager if someone took a job and didn't disclose her pregnancy? As a manager myself, I much prefer working with people who are honest and straightforward and really consider how their actions will affect their work. It would mean a lot to me if I was interviewing someone and she was upfront and told me she was pregnant near the end of the interview, and say that she knows she doesn't have to disclose it, but she wants to be totally upfront and honest so that she can make sure to work together and talk candidly about what she can and can't do during the next months. Now, I say all of that as a woman who is a manager who is supportive of other women who are pregnant/have kids. I have openly discussed in interviews with women who are of that age how I am a working mom and what that experience is like, how hard it can be, but how it can work out if we are all flexible and communicative and try to help each other. And just to share another story: one of my friends was pregnant and interviewed for a very high-level management job at another company. It was obvious she was pregnant and she talked openly and candidly about what she could do and what her transition plan was. She came in with ideas of how she would make it work. It was her second child so she knew what it would take, and what she would need to do to do a good job. She so impressed everyone with her honesty and forethought and she got the job. She was out on maternity leave almost as soon as she took the job. But it all worked out. And she was promoted the following year. So just to reassure you, depending on the people, it can all work out.”


Tell your boss. Or don’t tell your boss. There is no right answer:

 “I was upfront when I moved roles at current job while pregnant. My prior manager knew, possible (now actual) said he did not but could have been being polite. Anyway I am generally a direct person so I personally couldn't go into something new without disclosing that I'd be gone for awhile. I don't think there is a right answer, and I think it could be good to interview without disclosing pregnancy.”


Don’t tell your boss. See how the interview and promotion process plays out:

I was in a similar situation a while back...  I was filling in for my manager while she was on leave, but then she decided not to return and the role officially opened up.  As part of the policy, they then open the role up to every internal employee.  It was right around the end of my first trimester and I debated whether or not (1) I should apply for the job and (2) I should tell them prior to the interviews.  I decided to apply because it seems silly to let 1 year of my life affect my entire career and I decided not to tell anyone I was pregnant. The interview process was quick, so I got the job while I was still not showing.  I just looked like I've been indulging in too much food :)  After I got the job, I went to lunch with my new manager and told her the situation, including my hesitation on applying for the job and whether or not I should have told her beforehand.  She was absolutely supportive of my decision.  She said that she went through a similar situation when she was pregnant with her second. It's a hard decision.  I think your company's culture and your manager are factors on whether or not you need to give them notice.”


Suggested Resources:


“Based on its book Babygate, the non-profit A Better Balance has a great new website that provides information on your rights as a pregnant person and as a working parent. Part of that website has a fact sheet [download the PDF] about how and when to tell your boss that you are pregnant. They also have a free hotline to answer questions and provide referrals. Hope that helps.”


More Resources and Reading from PSP:

Working mother topics

How to Negotiate Work Life Balance When Job Hunting

Should I take a break from work?

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