Pregnancy and your legal rights in the UK
In accordance with the Equality Act 2010, if you’re pregnant, a prospective employer must treat you in exactly the same way as any other job applicant. They can’t reject you for a job on the grounds of being pregnant, likely to become pregnant or about to go on maternity leave.
On top of that, an employer cannot refuse to interview you, give you a job for a limited period of time instead of permanent employment, or offer you a lower salary or other less favourable terms because of your pregnancy.
To tell or not to tell
The question you’re likely weighing up is whether or not you should reveal that you’re pregnant during the interview. And the answer is, it’s completely up to you.
Legally you don’t need to tell a potential future employer that you’re pregnant, or even discuss it if you’re visibly pregnant. You may not feel comfortable talking about it, especially if you’re still in your first trimester, and that’s ok. Or you may want to be transparent and honest from the get-go, that’s ok too. It’s a personal choice.
An employer’s perspective
However, be prepared that if the employer finds out after you’ve accepted the job, they may feel tricked or even angry that the pregnancy wasn’t disclosed during the interview process. And it could damage the employer-employee relationship before it’s begun.
A 2018 study conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that 70% of employers believe women should disclose if they’re pregnant during the recruitment phase, feeling the employment relationship doesn’t start off on an open and honest foundation if it’s not revealed.
The study also found that the majority of employers were positive about the career ambitions and commitment of pregnant women and new mothers. Although 17% believe pregnant women and new mothers are less interested in career progression and promotion than other employees.
Some of the reasons employers cited for why they’d be concerned about employing a pregnant woman include uncertainty over whether the mother will return to work, the time spent training being a waste if they go off on maternity leave, and that finding maternity leave cover can be costly, time-consuming and disruptive.
Talking about your pregnancy
While withholding a job offer for any of these grounds is illegal, being aware of employers’ concerns and possible unconscious bias can help you get on the front foot, alleviating any worries they might have. If you’re comfortable talking and inviting questions about your pregnancy, it can be an opportunity to reiterate your enthusiasm for the role, long-term commitment to the business and career aspirations.
Be prepared with answers to likely questions you’ll be asked, such as how long do you want to take for maternity leave? Will you return after having the baby or want to come back part-time? Will you be wanting flexible work arrangements? How will you balance the commitments of your job and a baby?
Finally, be confident, and once the pregnancy has been spoken about, steer the conversation back to your experiences and skills, and why you’re the best candidate for the job.
Pregnancy is an exciting stage of life and if a potential employer isn’t supportive of that, maybe it’s not a place where you want to work anyway.
And remember WORK180 helps women easily identify employers that are supportive of paid parental leave, flexible working and breastfeeding facilities – search for endorsed UK employers here.
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About the author
To help women find a workplace that will work for them, we prescreen employers on their gender pay gap data, parental leave policies, flexible working, and more. Find your next role on the WORK180 job board.