My colleague at work has just resigned. We were working on a major project together and now my boss wants me about how to handle it alone next year. The problem is that I'm pregnant and haven't told her yet, as it's too early. I feel bad that I'm going to spoil the plans she's making now and am worried it could harm the project and my reputation. What should I do?
Congratulations on your pregnancy. The early days of being pregnant while working can be incredibly tough when you’re battling tiredness, sickness and desperately pretending everything is normal -when you’re feeling anything but. And all the while, you're trying to figure out the right moment to share your news.
It’s a lot to deal with – but please don’t let work worries get you down.
There isn’t, of course, a ‘right’ moment to tell people you’re pregnant – it’s a very personal decision. Many women choose to wait until after the 12 week mark when the risk of miscarriage falls dramatically, but there’s no rule.
In terms of work, you’re only required to inform your employer that you're pregnant 15 weeks before the beginning of the week in which your baby is due.
But there are also good reasons for people choose to share their news ‘early’ – before 12 weeks.
I did; an early miscarriage scare five weeks into my first pregnancy resulted in a sudden disappearance from work in the middle of the day to visit A&E. After I returned (very relieved) to my desk later that day to many quizzical looks, I told my boss what had happened.
I wasn’t prepared to add the stress of concealment to the list of pregnancy worries that suddenly occupied my mind. For me, being open created a huge feeling of relief and helped me maintain my concentration at work, and focus on my wellbeing, at a critical time.
There are other advantages in communicating your pregnancy in the first trimester: employers have a specific duty of care to pregnant staff, which comes into effect once they’re informed a worker is expecting a baby. And telling key people at the office sooner rather than later can enable good preparation and planning, as you’ve realised.
You need to think hard about your level of personal comfort with the news of your pregnancy being shared at this stage, and weigh the downside of concealment (feeling bad that your boss is making plans now that will have to change) versus the upside (preserving your privacy in the event you experience a loss).
Most importantly, this decision is about what you want to do - not what you should do.
As I’ve mentioned, as far as the workplace and pregnancy are concerned, you don’t have to tell anyone anything until around the 25 week mark, when you need to communicate your plans for maternity leave. Workplaces are adaptable and schedules changeable – so you mustn’t feel guilty if you choose not to divulge your pregnancy ‘early’.
Much depends, I think, on your relationship with your manager - how much you trust her to be sensitive and respect your confidence (if your boss is also the office gossip that may put a different slant on your decision), as well as how you feel both you and she would respond if you did subsequently suffer complications or a loss.
If you feel comfortable on these aspects and you’re fretting about the potential impact of keeping your boss in the dark, then I would recommend you think seriously about sharing the news now in order to remove this element of stress.
Find time for a quiet talk and explain why you’re choosing to tell her privately, and make clear your wish that it be kept in confidence until further notice. It’s likely you’ll breathe a sigh of relief, and your boss will welcome your openness.
If the conversation moves onto 2016 workload and your availability, then do remember you don’t need to commit yourself to taking a particular amount of maternity or shared parental leave at this stage.
Assessing the time you need and want to spend at home with your new baby is incredibly personal, and there will be all sorts of factors that combine to shape your decision that you may not be able to determine now.
Your employer’s ‘base case’ assumption should be that you will take all 52 weeks of your statutory leave, and of course you can use ‘keeping in touch’ days (‘KIT’), or ‘shared parental in touch’ days (‘SPLIT’) during this time - a helpful way to stay involved in key projects.
Good luck and congratulations.
Louisa Symington-Mills works in private equity as a COO and is founder and CEO of Citymothers and Cityfathers, networks of more than 6,000 parents in City careers. She is The Telegraph's careers agony aunt. Email your work and business questions to: [email protected] Louisa cannot print answers to every single question submitted, but she does read all your emails. Please note that by submitting your question to Louisa, you are giving your permission for her to use your question as the basis of her column, published online at Wonder Women. All questions will be kept anonymous and key details, facts and figures may change to protect your identity. Louisa can only answer based on the information you give her and her advice is not a substitute for legal advice.