Worried about making a career change with a baby on board? Don’t be.
It’s normal to wonder—will a prospective employer pause before offering you a gig, knowing that you’ve got a slew of doctor appointments and maternity leave on the horizon? Here’s the truth: pregnant women can (and do!) take on new opportunities every day, and if you’re the best fit for the job, the right employer should want to bring you on regardless.
Pregnant women have rights, too. We spoke with employment lawyer Omar A. Lopez, Esq., owner of The Lopez Firm, about what you should know during the job application process. Also on tap: inspiring advice from moms who made a career change while expecting. Here’s what to keep in mind.
You don’t have to tell them you’re expecting
From a legal standpoint, you’re under no obligation to disclose your pregnancy at a job interview. And no, the person interviewing you is not supposed to ask. “It is inappropriate, and unlawful under federal law and most state laws for an employer to inquire as to someone’s pregnancy or whether they have children when discussing the qualifications for a job,” says Lopez. “In general, an employer is only permitted to inquire if there are any obstacles to performing the job functions and working the scheduled time.”
But there may be an upside to spilling before accepting a new role
“I told the co-founder/CEO of my current company that I was expecting before I accepted the position. I wanted to ensure that I was entering a supportive, family-friendly culture. His reaction was of genuine excitement for me (you can’t fake something like that) and it reassured me that this was the right company for me,” says Elizabeth Dobrska, the director of community engagement and partnerships at LovePop. Her move has some merit: It allowed Dobrska to gauge the company’s culture and attitude towards moms, and the value of knowing she was entering a supportive environment made accepting the job an easy decision.
You may want to think twice about disclosing early on
This is particularly true of super new pregnancies. “Assuming the employer does not bring up a pregnancy, I would not recommend doing so,” says Lopez. “Unfortunately, some pregnancies simply do not make it past the first trimester. It would not make sense to disclose a potential pregnancy, and lose a job opportunity as a result, only to then lose a pregnancy as well.” Of course, this is a personal decision—if you’d rather share the news with the prospective employer (and the rest of the world, for that matter), that’s your decision, even if you’re still in the earliest weeks.
You may not be entitled to maternity leave
If maternity leave is essential to you, keep in mind that you may not be legally entitled to one if you deliver shortly after starting at a new company. “Generally, the Family Medical Leave Act provides for up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave, but in order to qualify, the worker has to have worked 1250 hours in the past year and have been employed for the same employer for at least 12 months,” says Lopez. If you’re starting a new gig while pregnant, you’re not guaranteed leave under this law. (Check out the company’s parental leave policies—some employers may cover you even if you’ve been there less than a year.)
You might have to work harder to prove yourself
“If you’re good at what you do, and you’re a hard worker, the pregnancy won’t stand in the way of employment,” says Brooke Brumfield, who started her own communications firm at 20 weeks pregnant. “When it comes to doctor’s appointments and scheduling snafus around pregnancy, don’t let people think you’re slacking because of it. As long as they can rely on you to get the job done, then you can begin to make room for your specific needs.”
Pregnancy may make you more productive than ever
Brumfield was laid off while expecting, but she ended up landing on her feet (and then some!), which she attributes to her pregnancy. “Mentally, I don’t think there’s a better time to make a jump,” she says. “You sweat the small stuff less, you go into a crazy mission-driven, solution-oriented frame of mind because you are no longer the center of your universe. I always wanted to start my own company so I did, assuming nobody would hire someone visibly pregnant. I was then offered at least three jobs before baby. I was blown away.”
Whether you’re eight weeks or eight months pregnant, you’re still more than entitled to go after that dream job. And while managing symptoms, negotiating parental leave, and adjusting to a new setting isn’t easy when you’re growing a tiny human, you can do it.