When Should I Tell My Employer That I'm Pregnant?

Finding out that you are pregnant can be one of the most amazing discoveries of your life. There may be a temptation to shout it from the rooftops. The feeling that you are bursting with happiness may be difficult to suppress, but it is common for women not to want to share their news too soon. Inherent feelings of caution and apprehension surrounding the early stages of pregnancy are perfectly normal reactions.

Secondary considerations around the health and wellbeing of your unborn baby, the emotional and physical changes that a woman invariably goes through and the overwhelming reaction from close friends and family may all take time to come to terms with.

Throw into the mix that you are going to need to tell your employer the news, having to take time away from work and the anxiety that this can bring, can be too much to deal with straight away.

What do I need to do and when?

The good news is that there is no obligation to share the news immediately. In fact, there is no legal requirement for you to notify your employer that you are pregnant any earlier than the 15th week prior to the due date (unless it isn't reasonably practicable to do so). This usually means that you will have been pregnant for around 6 months, by which stage any risks associated with the early stages of any pregnancy are more likely to have reduced.

By the end of that week though, you are required by law to tell your employer that you are pregnant to (technically) entitle you to be able to take maternity leave. I say technically because it would be risky, potentially discriminatory, for an employer to deny maternity leave on the basis of a late notification.

Notification does not need to be in writing but this is advisable, both for the purposes of proving knowledge (explained later) and for the trigger of health and safety obligations on the employer.

How am I protected and what are the risks?

The law protects women who are pregnant from dismissal, discrimination or detriment because of their pregnancy, or any pregnancy-related illness. Just because something is unlawful though, it doesn't mean that it doesn't happen in reality, or mean that having concerns about unlawful treatment is irrational. There is often a fear that having time away from the business might result in a woman losing her job, being forgotten, being excluded or replaced or being subjected to harassment by colleagues.

It can, therefore, be about finding a balance.

Notifying an employer early...

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