Newly Pregnant and Trying To Hide It At Work?

I had terrible morning sickness with my first pregnancy so I ended up telling my boss in confidence at around 8 weeks when I met her as I was going to the toilet again. If you don’t want to tell anyone until you reach 13 weeks but your tummy is getting bigger, you can’t stop snacking and are having to avoid post work drinks, here are some tips that might help, and advice on how to tell work when you are ready.

  • Buy similar clothes to usual but in a size or two bigger. You will still look much the same as usual but without tell tale bulges. Long tops can help hide your growing tummy.
  • If you’re experiencing morning sickness, mention that you think you have a bug. You can also use this as an excuse for staying off alcohol. Alternatively, claim to be on antibiotics which mean that you can’t drink. 
  • If you have a supportive boss, though, do take them into your confidence. You’ll find it much easier to cope if someone knows what is going on.

When you’re ready to tell work, ask for a meeting with your line manager. You need to tell your work by the time you are 15 weeks pregnant, unless of course you are unaware that you are pregnant at that point. Take details of your due date with you and be prepared to say when you would like to start maternity leave. You can change this later but need to give your employer 28 days notice. You may be asked to give details in writing. Your employer can ask for a form MatB1 which your midwife or doctor can give you from 21 weeks. Even before you are pregnant you have the right to ask for a workplace risk assessment. Risks at work could include lifting heavy loads; standing or sitting for long lengths of time; exposure to toxic substances or stress. If you work at a computer it is important to check that your work station is set up in the right position for you. The Health and Safety Executive have a useful leaflet with more details, A guide for new and expectant mothers who work, ref INDG373.
As your maternity leave approaches, work with your employer to make things easy for whoever is covering for you during your maternity leave. You may want to have one or more handover meetings where you can pass on your work. This makes it easier for the person covering and can leave you free to enjoy your leave. You can start leave leave any time from 11 weeks before the beginning of the week when your baby’s due. If you’re off work because of your pregnancy in the four weeks before the expected birth date, your employer can make you start your maternity leave. Once you start your leave you are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay if you have employed by the same employer continuously for at least 26 weeks into the 15th week before the week your baby is due and earn an average of at least £95 a week before tax. Your company may also have an enhanced maternity leave and pay scheme which pays you more on top of this.  If you get SMP, your employer will pay you 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings for the first six weeks, then up to £123.06 for the remaining 33 weeks. You pay tax and National Insurance in the same way as on your regular wages. If you don’t qualify for this you are likely to get Maternity Allowance which is £123.06 per week or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings, whichever is less, paid for up to 39 weeks.
If you are having problems setting up your maternity leave or feel that your employer is treating you less favourably as a result, this could be sex discrimination which is against the law. Raise the issue with your employer: if you are a member of a union you can get help and support from them. Your employer will have a grievance procedure which you can use if your initial complaint does not get the results you want.

An extract from this advice was published in Practical Parenting February 2010

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