Career Q&A: I accepted a job offer and shortly afterwards found out I'm pregnant

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I accepted a job offer recently. Shortly afterwards, I found out I am pregnant. Do I need to tell them now or can I wait for my first trimester?

First of all, congratulations are in order! From a legal standpoint, under the Canadian Labour Code, you are under no obligation to inform your employer that you are pregnant – until you are ready and able to apply for maternity leave or other health-related leave.

Because each province and territory is guided by its own legislation governing your pregnancy and parental rights, one of your first priorities is to get really clear on what your rights and responsibilities are based on where you live and how your organization is incorporated. The majority of nonprofit organizations will fall under the jurisdiction of provincial / territorial legislation related to maternity leave and benefits. However, there are a few exceptions of inter-provincially registered organizations that would be guided by the standards outlined in the Canadian Labour Code. This information should be easily found in your organization’s human resources policies. Additional support and advice on your rights can also be found by contacting your provincial labour standards ministry or human rights commission.

Overall, these rights are very similar across the country but there are some differences that are important for you to educate yourself on – especially if you are deciding when you need to talk to your employer.

For example, there are minimum time periods that you will need to have worked in particular job in order to qualify for maternity leave. In British Colombia, New Brunswick and Quebec, there are no minimum time requirements, however, in Ontario, this period is 13 weeks from your first day of employment. In Alberta, the time period you are required to work under provincial labour standards is 52 weeks. There are also variations across the country of when you need to notify your employer in writing of your intention to take maternity leave ranging from 2-6 weeks’ notice and how long a leave you are entitled to ranging from 15-18 weeks. Please note that these are examples of provincial standards only – always carefully check your organization’s human resources policies, as many employers will have more generous benefits policies.

The above are examples of your legal rights and responsibilities to consider. However, there are several reasons you might want to inform your employer earlier than when you apply for leave:

  • If your pregnancy will prevent you from doing parts of your job or pose a risk to maintaining a healthy pregnancy (e.g. long haul travel, late hours or heavy lifting).
  • If health concerns emerge during your pregnancy that require accommodation in terms of flex time for medical appointments or reduced work hours.

This is really a personal decision of when to disclose your pregnancy based on the strength of the relationship you have with your team and how progressive the organizational work culture is. We encourage you to talk to the other women in your life that have had this experience and take some cues from their experiences.

Whenever you are ready to have this conversation with your employer, I encourage you to proactively bring some ideas to the table of how your workload could be triaged and managed. Being an active part of driving the plans for your time away and transition back to the organization will be greatly appreciated (and your professionalism remembered!) by your employer.

Good luck!

Nancy Ingram is a co-founder and Principal Consultant at Foot in the Door Consulting, which specializes in helping nonprofit professionals build sustainable, satisfying and values-driven careers. Nancy and Foot in the Door Consulting’s team of expert associates have over 45 years of collective experience on both sides of the hiring and management process in the nonprofit sector in variety of sectors including human rights, social justice, environmental justice and animal rights. They can be reached through www.footinthedoorconsulting.com.

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