Finding a new job, writing an application and going through the interview process is never easy — but it can be even harder if you are pregnant.
Although it’s illegal to discriminate based on pregnancy, many women still fear showing up to an interview while obviously expecting in case it affects an employer’s hiring decision. Many also worry that a pregnancy may influence the salary they are offered because of bias.
So why may women be at risk of unfair treatment if they are expecting — and what should you bear in mind if you’re changing jobs while pregnant?
According to the Equality Act 2010, employers cannot legally discriminate against a woman for being pregnant and, once an offer is made, they are also not allowed to withdraw that offer based on pregnancy. That being said, discrimination against pregnant women isn’t uncommon.
“A pregnant woman has every right to apply for a new job without revealing her situation, however it’s not unheard of for pregnant women to be overlooked for jobs when interviewing,” says Jo Cresswell, a careers expert at the job and recruiting site Glassdoor.
“From the perspective of an employer, it is understandable that they would not want to knowingly hire someone who is going to be out for several months within a relatively short time period after their start date,” she adds.
“That said, if you are the best person for the job then any family-friendly, forward-looking employer will accept your situation and find a solution to cover the time you will be out.”
If you are changing jobs while pregnant, there are various factors to consider.
“Firstly, consider the reasons why you want to change jobs and why now. Changing jobs can often be a stressful experience,” Cresswell says.
“Both in terms of serving a notice period, which can often be up to three or six months, depending on seniority, and also pressure of settling into a new job and getting up to speed. Consider whether you feel ready for this kind of pressure while pregnant.”
In addition, be sure to fully understand the maternity allowance at both your current company and any company you’re thinking of taking a job at.
“Enhanced benefits often won’t kick in until you’ve passed probation, meaning you may not be eligible for extended maternity leave benefits,” Cresswell says. “It may make more financial sense to stay with your current company if your maternity benefits are better. Weigh up the financial impact before you decide to resign and or accept a new role.
“Also, check your contract to understand what rights you have to maternity benefits if you resign during or at the end of your maternity leave.”
If you weigh up your options and decide that you want to change jobs, be sure to tell your new employer at the earliest opportunity. It might not be easy to do, particularly if the firm isn’t particularly family-friendly or if it’s in a male-dominated industry. If they react badly, it may be a good gauge of whether this is the right workplace for you.
“They may not be thrilled to find out, but they will be more understanding if you tell them at a reasonable time,” Cresswell says. “At the same time, if you do not like the way they react it may be an indication that you shouldn’t accept the position after all. If the company isn’t family-friendly, it may not be the right place for you at this time of your life.
“By telling your new employer about your pregnancy once an offer has been made and a contract has been presented, you will be in a position to have an open discussion about flexible working hours and possible opportunities to work from home. You will be in a better position to negotiate.”
If you believe you’ve been discriminated against, make sure you gather your evidence to build a case as you may want to make a claim at an employee tribunal. “Resources such as Acas exist to help employees with any discrimination issues and can offer advice on how to resolve it,” Cresswell says.