It's confusing, and sometimes scary, to navigate this announcement, but there's protocol to be followed. Here's how HR experts suggest you tell your boss and keep your professional edge during pregnancy.
Congratulations—you're going to be a mom! It's so exciting to share the news with your loved ones, but you might feel a little more hesitant to tell your professional circle you're expecting. For some moms-to-be, this conversation can be scary, especially if they don't have access to paid family leave—only 13 percent of private industry workers in the U.S. do, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
It can also be confusing to decide when and how to tell your employer. When Sara Eisen, co-anchor of both CNBC's "Worldwide Exchange" and CNBC's "Squawk on the Street, was pregnant with her first baby, Samuel, who was born in December 2017, she decided it was best to tell her boss in private before telling her co-anchors and the producers on both of her shows.
If you're preparing for the big announcement at work, there's nothing to be afraid of. There are ways to navigate the conversation to keep the process easy and stress-free for you and your employer. We checked with the people who are often on the receiving end of this news—HR professionals—to help you set up your plan.
Your boss should hear it from you
In business, the first-person approach is best, especially for a pregnancy announcement. So keep your pregnancy news off of Facebook until you can share it in-office. "With so many of us connected to colleagues on social media, or even socializing outside of work, you want your boss to hear from you first about your pregnancy before telling other colleagues," says Georgene Huang, CEO and co-founder of Fairygodboss, a career community where women share their workplace experiences and inside scoop on culture, policies, and benefits at their employers. And plan to deliver your news face-to-face. "This way you can gauge your boss' immediate reaction and get a general sense of his attitude."
Choose an appropriate time to tell your boss
Most women in the Fairygodboss community inform their employer about their pregnancy around the end of the first trimester or early in the second. "But this may not always be possible if you're experiencing bad morning sickness or having other medical problems early in the pregnancy," says Huang. To tell your boss the news, set up a casual meeting with her on a quiet day at work, Huang suggests. "If you have a large project or performance review, you may want to tell your boss afterward, especially if you think there could be a negative reaction to your news."
Embrace an announcement hierarchy
Tell your team in the following order: Boss, then colleagues, then clients, suggests Lori Mihalich-Levin, JD, founder of Mindful Return, a program that helps parents navigate the transition into and out of maternity leave.
"When I told my boss at CNBC, I didn't have to say too much," says Eisen. "We met for drinks and, when I ordered a ginger ale, he knew right away. I'm typically good for some kind of whiskey cocktail." She says her colleagues and boss were supportive. "Everyone I told was very excited and, luckily, many of them are parents, armed with advice." Eisen decided not to make a formal, general announcement. "Despite being on TV each day, I'm not big on public pronouncements," she says.
Always stay professional
When sharing your news, do not strike an apologetic tone and avoid the words "I'm sorry," says Mihalich-Levin. "Having a baby is, after all, part of normal human life so it's important to be matter-of-fact and professional, while also conveying that you know baby's arrival may come at a busy time for the organization, and that you are committed to preparing as much in advance as possible," she says.
And don't shy away from acknowledging how your pregnancy may affect your work moving forward.
For Eisen, this meant working with CNBC's wardrobe and makeup department. "I realized quickly that I wanted to get away from some of the chemical and fragrance-intensive beauty products that I used regularly and I needed to go on air in different clothes," Eisen shares. "I started to gain weight right away. I needed help from the great team I work with each day and that certainly required me sharing the news with the beauty and style pros."
- Related: Signs You May Be Pregnant
Inquire about your maternity benefits
After you've told your team, reach out to the central HR team or a specific representative for some fact-finding. "Ask questions about maternity leave policies and procedures, family medical leave processes or about requesting accommodations if you work in a physically demanding role," says Robin Schwartz, managing partner with MFGJobs, a job board that allows people to search for manufacturing jobs openings. "The benefits associated with your specific medical plan should be easily available to you by reviewing the initial documents you received." If you no longer have them, you can contact your benefits provider directly to ask specific questions about pregnancy and maternity leave benefits. "If there isn't anyone centrally you can ask, look to a female colleague you know has experienced a pregnancy in the same workplace for guidance," Schwartz recommends.
If you're looking for a job, take the interview
If you're actively interviewing while pregnant, you're under no obligation to share your news with prospective employers. "Job hunting is hard enough for a woman without adding a concern that the candidate and mom-to-be won't return to work after their maternity leave," says Stephanie McDonald, CEO of Hire Performance, a contract recruiting firm in Charleston, South Carolina. She suggests holding back the news until after you receive an offer. "If the offer is the rescinded, you have a discrimination case and should contact a lawyer," she adds.
These may be hard conversations to have with your employer, but they're so important. Being confident and direct with your boss will let you get the most out of your working pregnancy—and your maternity leave.