I may be able to get a really great job with a really great company. However, I’m in the early stages of pregnancy and I’m concerned about how to handle it. I know it’s illegal to discriminate against pregnant women, but let’s face it — it happens.

So here’s the deal. Do I risk rejection by telling the employer about my situation up front or do I tell them after they make an offer and risk losing the offer? Or, should I wait until I am settled in the job and then lower the boom, but risk alienating my employer?

I am a dedicated worker and I take any job I have seriously. I intend to return to work pretty quickly after the baby comes because we need the income. I’d appreciate your advice. I am only nine weeks along and can probably hide my condition until quite a while after they hire me. Thanks.

Nick’s Reply

pregnant job interviewAnother reader recently asked me essentially the same question, but he’s not pregnant. He’s got a serious chronic condition and wanted to know when to disclose it to the employer. The answer to both is much the same, and it’s founded on whether the candidate’s condition will have a material effect on their ability to do the job as promised.

I don’t want to get into a tirade about the challenges women face when job hunting, or in advancing their careers. But I’ll say it: Women have a harder time in the workplace than men. Women earn less for doing the same jobs as men and don’t get promoted as often.

Where do job candidates come from?

Employers also worry about women having babies. Imagine that. Where do these companies think future generations of workers come from?

Any company that ignores the cost of temporarily losing women to childbearing has failed to plan its finances and operations intelligently. It’s called a fact of life. So I have no sympathy for any company that arches an eyebrow when it learns a female employee is about to have a baby.

Pregnant women — and people with chronic conditions — can work. Employers can manage a work schedule when a baby comes, and can accommodate a chronic condition if the hire can otherwise do the job as required. Your challenge is to live up to the work commitment you make.

Pregnant in the job interview?

My advice is to interview and win an offer on the basis of the work you can do and the contribution you can make to the company’s bottom line. If having a baby won’t make a material difference to your ability to get the job done, then it’s none of the employer’s business. (Legal experts agree you don’t have to tell that you’re pregnant.) Get the offer first — get it in writing. It won’t be so easy for them to rescind the offer at that point, and you’ll learn a lot from their reaction, too.

Rejecting you only because they learn you’re pregnant in the job interview is unethical. The strong position is not to tell them anything, not before getting an offer or after you start work. When it’s obvious you’re pregnant, tell HR you’d like to schedule the necessary time for the baby.

If you’re going to tell, turn it into a commitment. Since you plan to return to work after the baby comes without much delay, tell that to the employer. Provide details on your planned schedule. If they express dismay that you didn’t tell them this before they made the offer but they are still eager to hire you, that may be okay. If they get upset about it, I doubt you’d want to work there — they’re not going to be very supportive of a working mother.

Having a baby is your business

If you want to take legal action at that point, it’s up to you. I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice. My job is to optimize your chances of getting an offer and of having a good relationship with your employer if you take the job. How you play it from there is up to you.

It’s not hard to argue that, if you want a good relationship with your new employer, you should ‘fess up about being pregnant before they hire you. I’d agree — if you knew in advance which employers will follow the law and not discriminate against you. But you don’t. So I come down on the side of protecting your privacy and your interests — but the call is yours.

My advice is to assess the company’s attitude and decide whether they’re worth working for. If you’re going to disclose, don’t until after you’ve got an offer. Having a baby is your business. Your ability to do the job properly is your business and the employer’s. If you prefer to disclose, don’t skew the odds against yourself imprudently. If how you handle this is a sign of your integrity, then how the employer handles it reveals theirs. My advice is to act responsibly without putting yourself at a disadvantage, and to hold any employer to a similar standard. I wish you and your family the best.

What is an employer’s business, and what is not? Does an employer need to know your medical condition? Have you encountered this situation, either as a pregnant job seeker or as a hiring manager? How did you handle it? How did the employer handle it? What medical conditions does an employer really need to know about?

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  1. I will add another viewpoint. Don’t be afraid to take the job, do the work and then decide that you don’t want to go back.

    If your economic situation doesn’t allow it, that’s ok too.

    But if you find you want to stay home with the little one once they arrive, don’t feel guilty if that’s your choice either.

    My wife chose that and times were tough for a while, but it was a great choice we made work.

    You should be free to take this job, work until the kid is born and come back and the company should be happy. Or even choose to stay home and if the company is good they’ll be sad to see you go but be happy with your choice.

    • @J: Yep! It’s a personal decision, just like when a company lays you off, it’s a business decision.

  2. Great comment J!

    My wife did that choice too, given we consulted the tax authorities who told us that most of what she’d earn would be for them (in this canton of Switzerland at least, they add up both incomes of a married couple and taxes are exponential).

  3. Here’s another take. Many people for good reason don’t tell anyone but their most trusted that they’re expecting until after the first trimester. At 9 weeks she doesn’t have to say anything to anybody. In the general population there is some percentage of people who won’t carry past the first trimester and therefore you don’t know when or if you will have a baby, technically. Therefore it is no one’s business until it becomes more certain.

    • @Lloyd: Your logic applies in many situations, not just pregnancy, when deciding about what to disclose when you don’t really know what your situation is. Not all pregnancies go to term. Not all job offers “stick” — some are rescinded. And not all “sure things” are sure things. People understandably get excited when the interview process goes well and the employer suggests an offer is forthcoming. Pause and consider whether that bird is really in hand before you make statements or take actions you cannot take back.

  4. Interviewed for an executive position when I was visibly pregnant, unable to hide it. Their interview questions just *happened* to be things like, “are you looking for full-time or part-time work?” Again, an executive job with big responsibilities, clearly more than full time. This was with a large corporation where people would have known better.

    My advice is to reveal nothing until you have to, regardless. Early stages of pregnancy are risky anyway and they can’t help but discriminate.

    • I am sorry that you faced discrimination and I am surprised that some respondents are tacitly questioning the OP’s clear desire to remain in the workforce.

      I interviewed while obviously pregnant for my current job (and I am expecting my second child this summer, 4 years in); my company makes a serious effort to be convenient for mothers and this has led to more senior female practitioners and female leaders than I have ever worked with in any Fortune 100–and I’m guessing now, but I bet that the fact that we don’t bleed big chunks of the workforce when people hit 30 is one reason why we’ve been around for decades and broadly profitable.

      • Well, allowing your workers choice and flexibility seems to have worked well for your conpany.

        That’s great.

        The intent of my original message is that she should take the job (regardless of telling them about the pregnancy or not) and do whatever she feels is right at the time. Good companies should support the choices employees make that make their lives better, even if it’s leaving.

        I’ve lost very skilled member of teams before and while being upset for us and the impact to the company, if the choice is whats best for the employee’s life I always try too be happy for them.

        And it can pay off later too. I’ve pulled more than an handful of people back in when the best future choice for them was to come back.

      • @Amalia and @J: Babies are good for business. So are women. Sometimes guys really believe that and sometimes they just can’t get out of their own way. Some guys insist their perspective is more valid and justified than a woman’s right to ignore them. Good to see there are companies with Amalia’s record — and nice to see evidence that moms can be just as valuable employees as women. :-)

  5. “Women have a harder time in the workplace than men”. Not where I work at (and have worked at). The young women where I work at get away with murder, insufferable behavior, and unrestrained drama and are patronized, enabled, and placated by soft white knight male managers. Things that if I, or any other man, tried pulling would get us instantly terminated, so I/them don’t do these things because we don’t want to get terminated. Based common sense.
    “Women earn less for doing the same jobs as men”. Again, not where I work at (have worked at).That’s a load a crap, and dying yet again on that old worn out hill. A union journeyman electrician makes the same wage whether male or female. Same with other trades jobs. Meritorious based jobs in industrial sales and manufacturing I’ve worked in are the same thing. If women can’t/don’t negotiate on compensation, then that’s on them. Vote with your feet and find a better opportunity elsewhere.
    Young YouTubers like Joshua Fluke have this figured out, and to their credit, have their finger on the pulse of the current employment world better than most boomers (and I’m a boomer myself).

    • While I agree with some of what you said about equal pay not always happening, it is out there.

      The most egregious example I ever saw was my wife. Her boss literally gave a Sermon about how awful unequal pay for women is (the job was at a church) while paying my wife less than half what a male colleague made.

      So it’s out there, but sometimes those who condemn it fail to see the log in their own eye.

      • I am sorry that this happened to your wife and that sermon… I don’t have words (and I hope she quit).

        Something we all can do to combat pay inequity—talk openly with our peers about what we are paid (including non-salary incentives). When we have this information, we put ourselves in a stronger bargaining position with our current and future employers and we strengthen the bargaining power of our professions. We’re in the middle of the Great Renegotiation, y’all, let’s seize it!

        • @Amalia: What you said! The huge leverage people have in the midst of the Great Renegotiation goes right over most people’s heads. I know a guy who was ready to leave his high-paying job. The employer suspected and boosted his salary dramatically and gave him a huge promotion, too. He’s impressed but says he’s still not sure how he feels about it. The truth is that what he really wants is not just more money to compensate for his workaholic hours — he wants a more humane work schedule. Here’s the kicker: He doesn’t realize he’s totally in the driver’s seat. Doesn’t realize that now is the perfect time to negotiate a healthier work schedule in addition to everything else they’re giving him.

          When a company gives you signals that you’re indispensable, that’s the time to get all you need — especially when you’ve got other deals in the works. That’s what the Great Resignation really means.

        • Yeah, they kind of got slammed when she quit and they had to scramble to find someone who only had to do half of the job for even less money….

  6. Male here, so what do I know? Not much.

    Lloyd’s observation about not disclosing to anyone in the first trimester makes sense. However, it the news is generally known among one’s family and friends, it seems to me little shaky to conceal it, as obviously it will have significant impacts on work schedules about 5-6 months in the future, and that needs to be planned for.

    I’d suggest keeping the information private in the earliest screening interview(s), but once it progresses to a second interview, it should be discussed. (Similarly, if someone is in the National Guard and needs to take time for training, or if someone has a big trip planned, or something else that will require schedule accommodation.) Good employers shouldn’t have a problem with childbearing, and if they hire someone else because of it, well, you don’t want to work there anyway.

    Legalities aside, if I learned that this information had been deliberately concealed from me until after I had made a written offer, I would have a lot of trouble trusting that person in the future. And, by that concealment, that person would have shown that she doesn’t trust me, either. Bad start.

    • One other point to make is that if you tell them at the offer and they refund it, then you’ve likely avoided working in a bad environment.

    • @JR: Sorry, but I don’t buy that. How often do employers make an offer and make a hire — without disclosing information that could lead the candidate to reject the offer out of concern about that information? Sometimes business decisions are misinterpreted as personal affronts or as evidence of bad faith. Where do we draw the line?

      Suppose, rather than being a few months pregnant, the candidate was in the middle of a possible divorce that might cause emotional havoc that could affect the quality of her work. Should she disclose that? Where’s the line?

  7. Since my comment was just referenced here, I will follow up with a question…
    So, how many weeks pregnant is it acceptable to not mention ones pregnancy? If not 2 weeks (probably), then 3? 6? 8? Seems 9 is debatable.
    Or should a particularly fertile female have to disclose that she and her partner are trying to get pregnant (either naturally or by “artificial” means)? It may happen or it might not, but should you share that possibility? This really goes to the heart of what’s privately protected under legislation in your location.
    – Lloyd, Canada

    • I guess you’re asking me. Your trimester guideline certainly makes sense.

      Another appropriate milestone is when the news is generally public. Some people might want to keep things private a little longer, for whatever reason.

      If someone hopes/expects to be pregnant in the future, that’s a hypothetical, and there would be at least 8 or 9 months before the need for any accommodation.

      But, if you know for sure that, if all goes well, you will be taking leave in about 5 or 6 months, I think that should be mentioned. It would be interesting from the candidate’s point of view to see how the interviewer reacts. Hopefully it would be something like, “That’s great news! Congratulations!” followed by friendly and positive discussion of the employer’s maternity policies.

      One does not wish to learn, after starting work, that getting maternity accommodation is like pulling teeth, where all you get is the minimum legal mandate and a lot of attitude.

      I’ve worked at a couple of places where there were lots of young women, therefore lots of babies arriving, and it was welcome. My most recent employer had a valued employee who had three daughters in short order, and she kept getting promoted.

      • I should add: I’m assuming the position is something with professional responsibilities, where one hopes to stay and grow. A low-level job would be different.

    • @Lloyd: I love your “particularly fertile” case. Should candidates disclose they’re having sex without birth control because it may lead to pregnancy and the possibility of taking time off for a birth? This is why I suggest the test “Will it make a material difference in your ability to do the job?” What right does an employer have to expect any more than that?

  8. Many women take new jobs while pregnant. I’ve heard stories of keeping the pregnancy hidden for months. Depends on one’s health and body as far as how long it can be hidden. Something to consider is will this new job be easier or harder to do if you should have pregnancy complications (health complications)? I used to work in healthcare with new moms and some of them had sick babies or health scares and new jobs without any PTO. Talk about stress for these women and families! You may need a better job and none of this matters as much. The advice to disclose after being given an offer and job contract (if such is used), is solid. If you are going to accept, do that first and then disclose with confidence and your plan as Nick wrote. Don’t waffle and be like “I hope this is okay”.

    Let’s talk about disabilities. Many government workplaces eagerly hire people with disabilities as proclaimed on the job description and on the online portal where one must fill out about do you need accommodations or assistive technology. Other workplaces discriminate in a hidden manner. I’ve also seen job descriptions list such things as candidates must be able to see a computer monitor with corrected vision to (specific perimeters) or be able to drive in case you are sent out for the employer, and have a car, and insurance (for an office only position), or must be able to stand for 4 hours of an 8 hour work day. If you will need workplace accommodations such as using a screen reader program or scheduled breaks or time off to go to the doctor, this is something to discuss before taking the job. There are companies who eagerly hire people with disabilities and I’ve seen some non-profit organizations start up to foster such hiring. Show how you can do the job at the interview and on your cover letter. Convince them first and only disclose as necessary. Because face it, health issues or mental health issues can scare employers off unless they are educated or have experienced it themselves. Unless this is a government position that by law must hire and not discriminate or gives more hiring points to those with disabilities or are veterans. If the disability is obvious, bring it up in a way that explains or shows how you will do their job and solve their problem. “I use the screen reader XYZ and am at expert proficiency level.” Don’t waffle and be like “I hope this is okay”. What I’ve learned for my own health situation is to listen, observe the work environment in the interview, and do your homework beforehand, and ask questions about the work load and work day to make sure I can do the job, and carefully read the disclaimers on the job description. I once interviewed at a place where employees parked a half mile to mile away and had a long walk within the work environment to their desk. Follow what Nick teaches about showing/proving how you will do their job.

  9. As a former HR professional, I will tell you not to disclose. After you receive an offer and you are farther along in your pregnancy then let them know along with a game plan of how you will take leave–your state laws dictate. Offer solutions of how work will continue including your work from home possibilities. Essentially give them an action plan when the time is right. Blessings to you and your family.

    • Solid answer right there. See, Nick, there are some good ones in HR out there!! ;-)

    • @Ellen: What J said! Another HR professional (a good friend of mine) offers the exact same advice. She adds that if you do disclose, chances are quite high you will be rejected without explanation. Your only professional and ethical obligation is planning — when you’re on the job and the time comes — with your employer of how the work will continue.

  10. I wouldn’t disclose it at this stage. If your first interview goes well, and you’re asked back for a second interview, and if there’s interest on both sides, only then would I mention it, along with your plans for returning to work after the baby is born.

    Many women don’t announce their pregnancies until they’re done with the first trimester, and that is what I experienced with female colleagues at various workplaces. Why? Because miscarriage is more common than people think, especially in the first trimester, so they opted to wait until their pregnancies were more of a certainty. And yes, they all had plans to return to work, worked out with their depts. and the employer. Granted, several of those employers had more female employees than men (particularly the libraries), so taking time off wasn’t new and everyone pitched in until the new moms returned. At one place, the employee had been hoarding her vacation and sick time, then took it all at once, so she was out on non-maternity maternity leave (because there was no official maternity leave, so women had to use vacation and/or sick time) for a year.

    At another employer, women who got pregnant were immediately fired. Yes, it is illegal, but it happens alot, and employers are savvier today, or at least counsel is, so any lawsuits went nowhere.

    As a prospective employee, I’d be wary about disclosing too much too soon. As an prospective employer, I’d want to know if a candidate is pregnant and what her plans are for returning to work, because that’s something I need to plan for.

    I wonder if the letter writer could find out how this particular company handles pregnant employees, what their maternity leave policy is, whether other women who work/worked there found the company supportive, or whether taking time off for a baby derailed their jobs and career, not to mention pay. There’s a great deal to consider.

  11. I would disclose once discussions get serious and the pregnancy is at low risk of miscarriage.

    My rationale:

    ** if the company will not hire you because you are pregnant, it is likely has culture and/or policies that are poor in other areas. It is better to find that out now then when you have already started working there.

    ** the relationship will be harmed by your lying. And yes, I am clear in the use of that word. The withholding of relevant information is lying by omission. It is perfectly legal to withhold in this case; it is still lying.

    ** I would rather not receive the offer having held to my principles than get the offer having compromised them.

    Good luck!