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Pregnancy is a precarious time to be searching for a job. While there are laws that prevent a potential employer from discriminating against a pregnant job-seeker, loopholes mean that a woman can easily be passed over for a position. If that’s the case, “Fight for your rights,” says Komal Joshi, a working mom and founder of PlannedDeparture.com. “If you believe that you did not get a job just because you are pregnant, find a representative and file a case.”
When hunting for a job, look into the company’s benefits, including medical, vacation and sick time, and general family-friendly policies. You will need adequate medical coverage to get through your prenatal care and delivery. However, don’t assume that if you get hired, you’ll be entitled to the same benefits for maternity leave that established employees receive. The Family Leave and Medical Act protections, if they apply to the company, only kick in after an employee has been with a company for 12 months. However, the company might offer maternity leave – and any benefits that go with it – as part of the negotiations.
Navigating the Interview
Legally, you do not have to disclose your pregnancy during an interview, and the employer cannot ask you about it -- even if you’re so pregnant that your button-down blouse is threatening to pop open. Heidi Murkoff, author of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” notes on the book’s website, however, that if your condition is obvious, it might be wise to fess up immediately. If you’re only showing slightly and prefer to keep quiet, wear loose -- yet still professional -- clothing that hides your midsection, such as an unbuttoned suit jacket or a dress cut with an empire waist for more casual offices.
Informing the Employer
The biggest question in job hunting while pregnant is when to inform the employer about your condition. “I prefer honesty,” Joshi says. “Sooner or later, they would come to know. I do not see any point in making them think, ‘she should have mentioned it during interviews.’” However, when it’s early in the pregnancy -- particularly before the end of the first trimester -- there’s a reason to stay mum, albeit a sad one: Miscarriages are common, and it’s risky to lose a potential job over a pregnancy that’s not out of the danger zone. Choose the moment in which you feel comfortable divulging your pregnancy, whether it’s during an initial interview or after an offer has been made. “It's possible that some employers might not be comfortable in hiring pregnant women, However, if they have such bias, imagine what would happen if they know about your pregnancy after few weeks,” Joshi says.
Be ready for when the employer inevitably asks you about your plans after the baby is born. Know upfront how much time you want to take off and whether you want a flexible work schedule when you return to work. Offer additional details about your childcare plans. This is the time you can ask questions, too, such as when short-term disability insurance might become effective or if telecommuting is possible.