Approximately every eight seconds, a baby is born in the United States. Add in the fact that nearly two-thirds of women work—57.1% to be exact—and, inevitably, there are bound to be a lot of pregnant job seekers.
There are plenty of things to consider before you start a job search, pregnant or not. But, if you’re a pregnant job seeker, you’re probably wondering if job hunting during pregnancy is worth it. Like it or not, pregnant women do face discrimination in the work world, whether they’re looking for work or already employed.
However, being pregnant isn’t necessarily a reason to put off a job search. Sometimes you hate your current job and can’t stay another day. Other times, you just really want or need to work. Job searching while pregnant presents some unique challenges. But if you take some thoughtful and professional steps during your pregnant job hunt, you may find yourself in a fantastic new job.
What the Law Says
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 covers pregnancy-specific discrimination. That includes pregnancy, childbirth, and its related conditions. Specifically, the Act says that an employer can’t refuse to hire a pregnant woman as long as she can perform the “major functions” of her job.
So, theoretically, if you’re the best candidate for the job, the company should hire you, no matter how pregnant you are. However, the reality is that that doesn’t always happen. While some discrimination can be pretty obvious (“Oh, you’re pregnant? No thanks!”), sometimes pregnancy discrimination isn’t so easy to spot.
Some people have unconscious biases, meaning they aren’t aware of their biased beliefs. For example, some companies believe that mothers aren’t as committed to their job. An employer may think that a pregnant woman isn’t as competent or smart as employees who aren’t pregnant thanks to “pregnancy brain.”
Furthermore, while being pregnant may not be a problem, becoming a parent might. Employers may think you need to be on the “mommy track” and may not give you challenging enough work. Or, they may worry about excessive absenteeism due to sick days, school events, and the need to pick up from daycare.
Is Job Hunting While Pregnant Worth It?
Job hunts can be exhausting, emotional, and time-consuming. Pregnancy can be exhausting, emotional, and time-consuming. (You see where this is going.) Instead of risking stress overload, waiting until after the baby arrives to start searching could make more sense, especially if you’re experiencing morning sickness or fatigue.
Also, consider the fact that you don’t know how your pregnancy will turn out. If you need to modify your duties or take an extended medical leave, you may be better off staying in your present job.
Before you start a job search, don’t forget about things like health insurance, eligibility for protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and paid leave, to name a few. You may not have any of these things during and after your pregnancy if you start a new job while pregnant. Gaining or losing such benefits may weigh heavily on your game plan.
And if you aren’t able to take more than six weeks off from work after birth, consider that if your child-care plans include daycare, you may not be able to drop your child at the facility until they are six weeks old. That means you’ll need to find alternate care until that time.
Also, as you’re considering whether or not to job hunt while pregnant, think about the employer’s point of view. Fair or not, the employer may have concerns about your attendance and physical ability to work while pregnant. There may also be concerns about an extended absence for the birth and the recovery period. Or that, worse, you may not return at all.
Of course, these reasons alone shouldn’t put you off from job searching if that’s what you want (or need) to do. Staying in a job you dislike doesn’t do your well-being any favors. And even when job searching isn’t a necessity, some moms-to-be simply prefer to secure satisfying employment before welcoming their new arrival to “get their ducks in a row.”
How and When to Disclose if You’re Pregnant While Job Searching
While legally you don’t have to talk about your pregnancy during an interview, it’s usually a good idea to disclose the fact that you’re pregnant sooner rather than later. You want to appear dependable, honest, and a team player.
Hiding a pregnancy can make it seem you are none of these things. While a potential employer may not be thrilled to find out you’re pregnant, they will likely be more understanding if you come clean early in the process.
Disclosing Pregnancy After the Offer
Just like any other “perk” you want from your new job, you may want to wait until you have a job offer to mention your pregnancy. At that point, you will still be in a strong negotiating position and might be able to negotiate flexible hours, working from home, or anything else that you want out of a job offer.
And, while not pleasant to think about, if the company rescinds the offer, you can make the argument that there is discrimination at play. If nothing else, a bad reaction to your pregnancy is a good indication of the company culture, and you may decide you’re better off elsewhere.
Disclosing Pregnancy During the Interview
Depending on how far along you are, you may have to address your pregnancy during the interview. While you may encounter discrimination, early disclosure gives you the opportunity to directly address the company’s concerns about your pregnancy.
Disclosing your pregnancy later in the interview process (or after a job offer) may make the company feel “tricked.” While you are under no legal obligation to disclose your pregnancy during a job search, it doesn’t mean the company won’t feel upset that you didn’t mention it sooner. By “coming clean” early on, you’re demonstrating that you’re an honest and transparent employee.
If you decide to disclose your pregnancy during the interview, the best strategy is to reassure employers that you want a long-term career at the company. For example, remind the interviewer that your maternity leave is a drop in the bucket compared to the time you plan on staying at your job.
It’s also a chance for you to showcase your skills. Explaining what your plan for maternity leave would be if you’re hired can show how prepared you are or how you create long-term strategic plans.
Pregnancy and Job Searching Can Mix
Job searching while pregnant isn’t easy, but it doesn’t mean you’re not going to be a tremendous asset to the organization. Men who are job seeking and have pregnant partners don’t need to disclose their status during the interview process, and neither should you.
Pregnant or not, a job interview is an opportunity for you to talk about your skills and what you’ll bring to the company. While there will likely be questions about your pregnancy, addressing an employer’s concerns early on will help you allay their fears and, hopefully, result in a job offer for you.
For more tips, read about companies that have excellent maternity leave policies, how to figure out if your job offer is as good as it could be, and how to figure out when the best time to start a family is when you’re working.
And, if you’re ready to begin your job search, learn more about the top companies for working moms.
Cynthia Thomas Calvert and Beth Braccio Hering contributed to this article.
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com
A version of this post was originally published on December 29, 2018.
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