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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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Written by Isabella Brusati, managing director, LLB Hons, LLM, FCIPD

Isabella Brusati is the founder of Isabella Brusati Consulting,a firm specialising in change management. She received a Degree in Law, a Master’s Degree in European Labour Studies and Human Resources Management, along with the CIPD graduateship. Isabella is Italian mother tongue, fluent in English, with knowledge of French. She has also publishes articles on change management and is the author of the acclaimed report “Top Mistakes Companies Make When Dealing with Cross Border M&As.”

Isabella also maintains her interest in diversity by enhancing women’s career progression and leadership through Women in Banking and Finance, as well as through her mentorship for the international charity Dress For Success.

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3 Responses to “Should an employee go for a promotion if she is pregnant?”

  1. Having been someone who lost track of the career for almost 8 years because of the young family and stigma (it was 1980s) – I really like your stance Isabella. It too me a long time to get my career back on the right course.

    I do have two issues that I would share: the first is that if the person concerned is having a poor early stages – with much morning sickness or other associated health issues – disclosure may happen by default. If the employer is not understanding of frequent “comfort” breaks (whether to be sick or for the loo) – there could be resultant disciplinary issues for that employee if the employer is not aware of the pregnancy.

    The other is the aspect of risk assessment to the mother and unborn child – particularly if the employment encompasses substances that potentially might be harmful or there are tasks that put health at risk, which might be alleviated by reasonable adjustment.

    In those instances disclosure is probably the more sensible route to take.

    Going for promotion – absolutely – why not – just because you are cooking a baby does not mean that you are not able to function as normal – after all you are not ill! If anything you are likely to be better than normal.

    Definitely hold your options open and never sign up to anything linked with the return to work. Certainly balance out the time taken out between both partners – particularly if the male partner or father of the child is not in a “career” type role and therefore potentially has less to lose by taking on house husband role for a time. I have an acquaintance who had done just that. She is back at work and loving it. There are no childcare costs and she knows that the baby has best care – win /win situation.

    It’s about time legislation got it right. All steps in the right direction.

  2. Cassandra says:

    Dear Isabella,

    I am in a bit of a pickled situation. May be you could shed some light. My direct manager is pregnant and will be going on maternity in a few months. I too want to have a baby soon as I cannot post-pone any longer due to medical reasons and my maternity leave will coincide with hers. (For about 5 months, according to my plan). Our Finance Director who is my manger’s immediate boss is a very moody and some what egotistical person and will fume once he knows both of us will be out at almost the same time.

    However, there’s an opportunity for me to go for a promotion and I will then report directly to him. My worry is should I go for the promotion in these circumstances? I’d love to go for the promotion and then go on maternity in about 8-9 months but I’m afraid of what will happen up on my return or even before!…
    Please shed some light if possible..