A couple of months ago I was reading a glossy fashion magazine and I was amazed when I came across an article that literally crucified women who do not disclose their pregnancy to their current or future employer when applying for a new role.
Just a few months ago, Lord Sugar reported that pregnant women should disclose this ‘particular’ during interviews. It is the old adage: pregnant women are a burden for a company. Is this really the case? With the changes in the Paternity Leave Regulations and the employment law reforms announced in the Queen’s Speech the rules of the game are changing. However the cultural shift has not taken place yet.
I have plenty of friends whose career has stalled (not to say became nonexistent) because they ‘dared’ to have a child and to take maternity leave.
What should pregnant women do in order to conciliate their desire to start a family and to pursue their career? In my +15 years experience as an employment law professional, I have devised several strategies that are very effective for women:
- Pregnant women should not disclose their status (being pregnant) up to when they have to notify their employer by law of their pregnancy in order to benefit of their statutory rights. This behaviour is not sneaky: it is a smart and its a commercial decision. Many employers will unfairly consider you ‘out of the game’ as soon as the word pregnancy is mentioned.
- Women should be strategic when it comes to their pregnancy and maternity leave: Always state that you are going to return to work, even if at this stage you are not sure about it. At all times leave the door open. Lots of thing can happen during your maternity leave.
- Women should apply for promotions even if pregnant: more senior positions mean more flexibility in terms of how women can use their working time. As long as you reach you targets, you are not as heavily scrutinised as more junior individuals. Again, this is not being devious, it is about pursuing your career and making the best out of it. The more senior you are, the more indispensable you would be.
- Women should plan with their partner who is going to take leave: more and more women are now the main breadwinners in their families and fathers can take additional paternity leave to look after the baby. Childcare and leave are not a ‘women’s only issue’ anymore. In the recent Queen’s Speech it has been confirmed that women will have the possibility to swap parental leave with their partners.
- Employment law reforms are due to change the landscape as both men and women will be in the position to take time off to look after the newborn. However, there is still a stigma affecting men taking time off to look after their child as this is not deemed a ‘macho’ choice. Culture will change and also company practices. HR practitioners need to be proactive and facilitate this transition to avoid losing out on their competitors and failing to attract and retain both female and male talent.
Is there the possibility of being promoted in your company and you are pregnant? Go for it. What matters are your skills, abilities and experience.