You need a job and you just found out you’re going to have a baby. Should you tell prospective employers? Or do you wait until after you’re hired? It’s a dilemma many younger women face and it’s particularly acute in today's tough job market.
Keep in mind that you are not obligated to disclose your pregnancy. And it’s illegal for a potential employer to inquire about your pregnancy, marital status or your future family plans. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it a crime for an employer to refuse to interview or hire you because you’re pregnant.
While the law protects you with this specific wording, employers can find other reasons to “take you out of the running” and hire another candidate. The simple truth is no two candidate’s qualifications are alike, and that means they can find something in another candidate’s work experience or current skill set that makes them a better fit for the job. There are just too many applicants to choose from these days.
Admitting that you’re pregnant immediately flags you as a candidate who will need maternity leave (now referred to as parental or family leave). The law entitles most workers to up to 12 weeks of job-protected medical leave for the birth of your child. Although the law excludes those who work for smaller companies and guarantees only unpaid leave (typically six weeks). Maternity leave benefits vary by state, so you should check both state and employer guidelines before applying for a job if you’re expecting. Most women will use a combination of short-term disability (STD), sick leave, vacation, personal days, and unpaid family leave to have their baby.
If you just found out you’re pregnant and you decide not to tell, you’ll have five or six months to demonstrate how truly indispensable you are to the job. The hope is that your boss will understand why you weren’t up front with the news—given the highly competitive job market.
If you decide to tell interviewers that you’re expecting, they will credit you for being up front with them but may decide to go with another candidate. An employer who decides to hold this against you, given your qualifications, experience and skills—combined with the fact that you were honest—may not be someone you would want to work for. If you suspect an employer has excluded you from consideration for a job due to your pregnancy, you should contact your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission field office.
So whether you tell or not is entirely up to you. But there are things to consider. You’ll have to base your decision on what you know about the employer, your qualifications for the job, and the competition you face for the position.