‘I’m Expecting!’ Managing your announcement at work

Making the announcement

You are expecting, congratulations!  You feel elated, shocked, worried, panicked, excited (or no doubt a combination of all)…

So, you now have to take a very personal life-event and announce it to your professional network – this is not an easy task for many – especially if it’s your first time.  It’s likely that you have spent years building up your career, your network, your skills.  It’s possible that you and your team are hugely stretched – it’s no doubt we can feel a twinge a guilt when first announcing we are taking time off.

Looking at things from your manager’s perspective, he or she will no doubt be pleased for you on a personal level.  However, as you are also announcing your departure from the team, they may well be fast-forwarding to the fact that they now have to organise cover for your leave, and will probably feel anxious about losing your valuable skills (even if it is only temporarily).

Difficult though it may seem, it’s a good idea to temporarily put your emotions to one side when it comes to your work announcement. The key is to plan your announcement in the same way you would plan a professional announcement – because in this context, that’s exactly what it is.

When to announce

Officially, you are obliged to formally announce your pregnancy 15 weeks before your due date. However, given by this time, you will be around 6 1/2 months pregnant and quite possibly pretty large, most choose to announce a lot earlier, and for other reasons too.

Should I wait until after my 12-week scan?

Many people see the 12-week scan as the first key milestone, and for good reasons. The risk of miscarriage is much lower after the first trimester, and if you wait until after your first scan, you have the added advantage of knowing the pregnancy is progressing healthily and your baby is fit and well. You also have a more accurate idea of your actual due date.

On the downside, you may well be suffering from morning sickness, fatigue and other pregnancy-related conditions, which can be particularly acute in the first trimester. Going through this alone, at work, and trying to cover all traces, is particularly tough. You may also be offered a new project or a business trip abroad, which would be difficult to take on if you are feeling ill, in which case you may have to announce earlier. If you are exposed to particularly high levels of stress, heavy physical work or chemicals, you are acting in your and your baby’s best interest to announce early.

'During my second pregnancy, I started showing a lot earlier than during my first. By 11 weeks I was struggling to fasten my suit and I was convinced everyone had guessed. I decided to confidentially announce to my line manager only as I knew I could trust him. And I didn't want to wait until I was very obviously showing'
(Tracy, mother of 2)

 

Consider the business perspective when choosing ‘the moment’

You should receive a positive, supportive reaction no matter when you choose to announce your pregnancy.  However, taking the current team culture into consideration may help you find the best moment.  If your team is right in the middle of a huge project, where deadlines are imminent, time is stretched and resources are tight, the chances are your manager’s initial reaction may well be rather distracted!

Bear in mind that if you do delay your announcement, your employer’s specific duty of care does not apply until you have informed them of your pregnancy – so you may not get the support you are entitled to – a health and safety assessment and paid time-off for ante-natal appointments, for example.

Who to announce to

  • Your direct line manager (ideally first)
  • Your team colleagues
  • HR (including a formal, written letter)
  • Your clients (internal and/or external), as well as any external vendors or consultants – if you wish and as your leaving date gets closer

Drawing up a list of people you need to tell may sound a little formal, however it will ensure you approach the announcement as a business task, making you feel more confident and professional. It also saves the embarrassing 'by the way, did I tell you I was pregnant?’

Working through pregnancy most definitely comes with its challenges, but resist all temptation to talk excessively about the more intricate details.  Judge reactions carefully – there will always be people who are more interested than others.

How to announce to your line manager

The ultimate aim of this meeting is for both you and your manager to feel reassured that the impending change will be positive and carefully managed.

1 - Prepare - have a read through your company's maternity, parental and flexible working policy to give you an overview. Don't presume your manager knows these policies inside and out, as it is probable they are not up to speed. Think about your due date and when you might want to start your leave. You don't need to discuss how long you are thinking about taking off.
2 - Book a private meeting room - this sets a formal business tone and allows you to relax with the confidentiality it brings.
3 - Don't ramble! It's easy to feel nervous in this situation, making it much easier to talk a lot! A simple 'I wanted to meet with you to let you know that I am pregnant' is enough. Wait for a reaction and then respond appropriately. 'I wanted to let you know as soon as possible so we can make appropriate plans' also helps.
If you are experiencing any pregnancy-related illnesses, complications or bad sickness, this is the time to mention it - it will help your manager to understand why you perhaps haven't been at your best recently.  Discuss any help you may need at this stage.
4 - Don't apologise! After all, you are announcing personal good news!
5 - Hold a subsequent 'planning meeting' with your line manager - you may wish to get a separate date in the diary for getting into the specifics of how, together, you will manage your pregnancy at work.  But don't leave this meeting too long!

'I distinctly remember my manager’s reaction to my pregnancy announcement. He simply responded ‘ahh’ and then went completely silent. Consequently, I ended up rambling on about due dates, how I’d been feeling, how long I might or might not take … just to fill an uncomfortable silence'
(Alison, mother of 1)

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