The Unofficial Rules of Job Hunting While You’re Pregnant
Hunting for a job can be a challenging task, especially in today’s economic climate.
Combine that with a pregnancy and it might seem like the odds are stacked against you.
This is especially difficult when your pregnancy has started to show, giving your prospective employers a physical indication that your availability at work is about to change in a few months’ time.
Actually, the number one fear for pregnant women who are job hunting is that they will get passed over even if they are qualified for the position.
In the United States, over 75 million women are work force participants, with more than 66 million of them employed.
According to a study by the Center for American Progress, about three quarters of these women will carry a pregnancy at least once while they are employed, and a significant portion of them will be expectant while hunting for a job.
The need to search for a job while pregnant might arise due to factors such as company layoffs and the need for financial stability once the child is born.
While it might seem like the odds are stacked against you, a pregnancy should not deter you from searching for and getting your dream job.
For instance, Marissa Mayer was hired as CEO of Yahoo six months into her pregnancy.
However, it is good to acknowledge that there will probably be some bias by hiring managers against pregnant women.
Once you acknowledge this, it becomes easier for you to prepare yourself accordingly.
Below are seven unofficial rules you should keep in mind when you are job hunting while pregnant.
RULE 1: YOU HAVE ZERO OBLIGATION TO DISCLOSE
For most women attending interviews while pregnant, the biggest thing they grapple with is deciding whether or not to mention their pregnancy to the interviewing panel.
According to a survey conducted in 2017 by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, six out of 10 (59%) of employers in the private sector believe that it is necessary for women to declare their pregnancy status during the recruitment process.
However, this is illegal.
According to the law, every woman has the right to go through the recruitment process without mentioning or discussing their pregnancy or plans to have children, even if the pregnancy is obvious.
While you have no obligations to disclose your pregnancy during a job interview, the decision is not as straightforward.
There are some personal and practical factors that you should keep in mind when making the decision.
For instance, hiding a pregnancy might make you come across as a dishonest person, something that might affect your relationship with your colleagues and superiors once you get the job.
So, should you disclose or not?
When applying for the job, you should apply for the job like you would apply for a job without a pregnancy.
There is no need of mentioning the pregnancy when writing your cover letter. In most cases, employers will need to conduct a screening call over phone or Skype before moving on to the in-person interview.
There is no need to bring up your pregnancy during this screening call either.
If you want to find out whether the company is family friendly, you can enquire about the company culture and work-life balance without having to mention your pregnancy.
Once you get to the in-person interview, you should make the decision on whether to immediately let the employer know that you are expectant based on where you are with your pregnancy.
If you are in the later stages of your pregnancy and your belly has started showing, it is best to address it during this stage.
However, if your pregnancy is still in the early stages and has not started showing, it is advisable to keep the information to yourself.
Many women will actually feel nervous sharing details of their pregnancy even with their friends during the early stages of a pregnancy, so there is no need sharing the information with a stranger at this time.
Sharing the information at this stage might also put you at a disadvantage, which is something you want to avoid.
It is good to note that you will eventually need to disclose the pregnancy to your potential employer.
So, when should you do it?
Here, you have two options: to disclose it after you get an offer or after you get hired.
The best option is to do it after you get an offer.
Once the employer has sent you an offer, it shows that they have already settled on you as the best qualified person for the position.
By disclosing the pregnancy at this time, you avoid coming across as having pulled a bait-and-switch on them.
They are also unlikely to rescind the offer after you disclose the news, since this would be pregnancy discrimination, which is against the law.
If you decide to tell them once you are hired, they are stuck with you and there’s not much they can do.
However, the problem with this approach is that the employer will think you pulled a fast one on them, which might affect your relationships at work.
However, if you were in the very early stages of your pregnancy, you can hold off the information for a few months as you prove your worth to the company.
Once you decide to tell them, simply mention that you and your partner have just decided to go public with the information.
For instance, you can say:
“Robert, I wanted to let you know that my husband and I have a baby on the way. The baby is due in August.”
That should be enough. You don’t have to go into any more details. If they ask whether you were aware of the pregnancy while interviewing, you can simply answer with:
“We just went public with the information this week, and we feel so excited.”
RULE 2: IF YOU CHOOSE TO DISCLOSE, HAVE A PLAN
In rule number one, I mentioned that if you are in the later stages where your pregnancy has started showing, it is best to bring it up instead of going through the interview hoping that they will not notice.
Addressing the pregnancy shows that you are in control and allows you to put the employer’s concerns to rest.
There are two reasons why employers are usually hesitant about hiring an expectant woman. The first reason is her availability at work.
In most cases, employers are looking to hire someone because they have a role that needs to be filled immediately.
At the same time, an expectant woman has a number of obligations that will impact her availability at work, such as the antenatal doctor’s appointments, unexpected illnesses and other symptoms brought about the pregnancy, as well as the actual maternity leave once the child is born.
Employers might feel that these commitments will prevent a pregnant woman from providing the immediate support needed for the role they are interviewing for.
Second, most employers usually have concerns about the commitment of the pregnant woman to the job. There are cases where some women decide not to go back to work after having a baby.
As such, employers are wary about having to go through the expensive process of hiring and inducting a new employee again after a few months.
Therefore, if you decide to address your pregnancy, you should have a plan on how you are going to put the employer’s concerns to rest.
Before the interview, prepare on how you are going to tackle any questions about how the pregnancy will affect your responsibilities.
When talking about your pregnancy, do not be apologetic about it. Mention it matter-of-factly and then move on to your plan for ensuring that the pregnancy and childbirth have the least possible impact on your work.
For instance, let the employer know that you will handle some work in advance, make advance planning for the time you will be away and reassign some duties to ensure that the gap you leave during your maternity leave will not be felt.
Most importantly, assure your prospective employer that you will come back to work, and give them a detailed plan of how you will transition back to work after having your Baby.
Now that you have brought up the subject of your personal life, you can also mention that you have other children if this is not your first pregnancy.
By telling the employer that you have other kids, you are letting them know that this is something that you have handled before. The aim here is to show the employer that the pregnancy and the baby will not interfere with your work.
Once you do that, you are more likely to get hired. If your aim is to start working after your baby is born, you should also let the employer know during the interview.
By addressing the concerns of the employer during the interview and showing them that you have a plan for ensuring that the pregnancy and childbirth will have the least possible impact on your work, you will increase your chances of getting the job.
However, when discussing your plans, you should be cautious about exaggerating your flexibility.
For instance, do not claim that you will be back to work two weeks after your baby is born.
RULE 3: AVOID MAKING YOUR PREGNANCY THE FOCUS OF THE INTERVIEW
If you decide to talk about your pregnancy, you should not spend a lot of time discussing it. Mention it as a simple thing that does not have any major contribution to the interview and move on.
By treating it as something that does not have any major influence on the outcome of the interview, your interviewers are also more likely to treat it as such.
The main thing to remember that you should not let it become the focus of the interview.
For instance, you can say:
“Gilbert, I have a few questions. First, I’m curious about the biggest opportunities this department has right now. Oh, I see. That’s great. Secondly, I am expecting a baby in five months’ time. I already have some ideas about how I will minimize the impact of my absence from work. I plan to do XYZ. Thirdly, I wanted to know…”
Once you have mentioned the pregnancy and your plans for ensuring it doesn’t interfere with your work, quickly steer the conversation back to discussing your expertise, experience, strengths, personality and gifts.
Focus on your qualifications and why you are the right person for the job.
Show them the contributions that you will make towards the overall well-being of the company.
Since the pregnancy will likely result in some bias on the part of the interviewers, this is the time to sell yourself vigorously. T
he aim is to show them that the inconvenience brought about by your maternity leave will only be miniscule compared to the benefits you will bring to the company in the long term.
You should also show your commitment to the vision of the organization.
According to research, women who emphasize personal qualities experience significantly lower levels of pregnancy discrimination at work compared to those who do not.
RULE 4: SCHEDULE INTERVIEWS AROUND YOUR PREGNANCY
While pregnancy is a beautiful thing, it comes with some not-so-great side effects: morning sickness, bloating and constipation, frequent peeing, nose bleeds, and so on.
These symptoms are unavoidable and can ruin things for you, especially if they appear during interviews.
Therefore, it is good to consider such things when scheduling for interviews.
For instance, if the symptoms are at their strongest during the morning hours, it makes more sense to schedule your interview for the afternoon when your body will be more at ease and your mind more alert.
You don’t want to interrupt an interview so that you can rush to the bathroom.
In addition, your body will also be undergoing some changes, and it is good to ensure that your interview wardrobe fits well, despite the changes happening to your body.
In addition to the physical changes happening to your body, being pregnant will also increase your obligations. You will need to attend antenatal clinics, sometimes you will be unable to work due to morning sickness and so on.
If you are searching for a job while still employed, all these obligations – in addition to the time devoted to your job search – can interfere with your duties at your current job.
Therefore, you should plan your job search efforts and interviews accordingly to ensure you do not end up losing your current job with a baby on the way and no other job in the offing.
If you are in the final stages of your pregnancy, it is also best if you concentrate on searching for jobs that will allow you to start after the baby is born.
RULE 5: CHECK WHETHER THE NEW JOB COVERS YOUR NEEDS
When searching for a job while pregnant, it is important to consider the benefits provided by the organization, as well as whether the new job provides any special benefits for pregnant women.
According to Unum, a disability insurance provider, 28% of short term disability claims are due to pregnancy, making it the most common reason for short term disability claims.
By claiming disability insurance, you can take time off work and still receive some income to help you meet your obligations.
Benefits are also part of your total compensation, therefore they are an important consideration.
The best thing to do is to do some research even before the interview and find out if your prospective employer provides any benefits that will help ease your life once you have had your baby and returned to work as a working mom.
While considering the benefits provided by your prospective employer, you should also take a look at their maternity leave policy and their prenatal care coverage.
This is something you should make sure to discuss with your employer once you bring up the issue of your pregnancy, before accepting the job offer.
However, some companies do not have any official maternity leave policy, which means that you might be forced to claim short term disability as well as some paid time off.
You should also take a look at the medical insurance options provided by the employer, since, as a new mother, you might frequently require medical care for your newborn.
One thing you should keep in mind is that if you are interviewing while already pregnant, you will not be eligible for coverage by the Family Leave and Medical Act (FMLA) after you are hired.
This is because, in many companies, the FMLA only applies to employees who have been with the company for over 12 months before requesting for maternity leave.
RULE 6: CHECK WHETHER THE JOB FITS INTO YOUR PLANS
If you are searching for a job while pregnant, it is good to be honest with yourself and realize that your responsibilities and obligations will increase significantly once your baby is born.
You should keep this in mind when sending out job applications.
Take the time to think about how your daily schedule will change once you become a mother, and then figure out whether the job you are applying for will align with this schedule.
- Will you need a job with a structured schedule or one that allows you to be a bit flexible?
- Will you be fully available from 9 to 5?
- Would you prefer a job that allows you to work from home as you take care of your newborn?
- If not, will you have someone to watch the baby when you are at work?
You will also need to consider the location of the job.
If you intend to take your baby to a day care center, you will need to consider whether there is any good day care center close to your new job, as well as the distance to the new job from home.
All these factors will affect your performance and satisfaction in your new position, so it is important to give them some careful thought before applying for a job. You should also determine what the job demands of you before applying.
For instance, as a new mother, you might not be able to fit well into a job that requires you to travel frequently or work extremely long hours.
The most important thing here is to figure out what matters for you and your baby and then look for a job that will allow you to meet your obligations and responsibilities.
Below is a checklist of some of the things you should consider if you are hunting for a new job while expecting:
- Physical demands – opt for jobs that have fewer physical demands, such as heavy lifting and standing all day, especially during the later stages of your pregnancy
- Flexible work hours
- Family friendliness
- The option to telecommute or work from home if need be
- The option to take breaks if need be (such as attending doctor’s appointments)
RULE 7: UNDERSTAND YOUR RIGHTS
Finally, you should understand that as a pregnant woman searching for a new job, you have your rights.
Despite all the progress that has been made in the world, bias against pregnant women still remains in the workplace.
According to two studies done in 2007 and 2004, pregnant women are viewed as less competent and therefore less likely to be hired. In another study carried out in 2013, the researchers found out that pregnant women were more likely to be treated rudely by interviewers of both sexes.
One of the co-authors of this study notes that this bias stems from a subconscious level, even if people may consciously know that pregnancy does not affect a person’s competency.
The study also noted that pregnant women are less likely to be treated rudely if they focused on their qualifications and explained how they planned to ensure success in the position despite their pregnancy.
So, how do you keep yourself protected against pregnancy discrimination?
According to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), it is illegal for an employer to deny a woman employment on the basis of her pregnancy.
The law also protects pregnant women against other forms of discrimination at the workplace, including things such as benefits, job assignments, promotions, and layoffs.
During the interviewing process, it is also illegal for an employer to enquire if you are pregnant or are planning to get pregnant.
The law also gives you the right to not discuss your pregnancy in a job interview, even if the pregnancy is obvious.
However, if such a question comes up, you can politely brush it away.
For instance, you might say:
“If you are asking about my ability to perform the duties associated with this position, you can rest assured that I will deliver everything that is required of me.”
If, for some reason, you feel that an employer has discriminated against you on the basis of your pregnancy – for instance, if they asked you a question concerning your pregnancy or plan to have children – you can report the matter to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Because of this, most employers will not bring up the subject of pregnancy during the interview, even if the pregnancy is obvious.
Unfortunately, they can still avoid hiring an applicant based on her pregnancy. In such instances, it becomes difficult to file a claim for pregnancy discrimination, since the applicant has no way of proving that the pregnancy was the reason behind her being denied employment.
In addition, employers do not require you to fill your pregnancy status during the job application, therefore it cannot be proven whether they were aware of the pregnancy.
THE BOTTOM LINE OF JOB HUNTING WHILE PREGNANT
While searching for a job while pregnant can be somewhat challenging, the fact that you are carrying a little bundle of joy inside you should not keep you from going for your dreams.
There are several women who have done it, and you can do it too!
If you find yourself in an interview room while pregnant, always remember that you have no obligations to bring up the pregnancy.
However, if you choose to, have a plan, address the pregnancy and your plan matter-of-factly and quickly steer the conversation to your strengths and qualifications.
Keep in mind that a pregnancy will come with some changes, and schedule your interviews with these changes in consideration.
You should also check whether the new job covers your needs and whether it fits into your plans.
Finally, remember that as a pregnant woman, you have your rights. No employer should discriminate against you because of your pregnancy.