If you’re job hunting with a baby on the way (or you're preparing for an adoption), I’m guessing you have quite a few questions on your mind. Will an employer hire you if you’ll require time off soon after your new addition? Should you disclose your plans if you’re not visibly pregnant? It’s a tricky situation, but you have more options than you may realize.
What are your rights?
Here’s a quick rundown of your legal rights in the United States no matter where you interview:
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against a job candidate based on pregnancy or related medical conditions (as long as you can physically perform the job).
- You are not legally required to disclose pregnancy or plans to adopt, though you may choose to do so.
- During an interview, employers are not permitted to ask if you’re pregnant.
Wondering about medical leave once you have a child? The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) only grants unpaid leave to employees once they’ve been with their employers for at least 12 months and 1,250 hours. Check the organization’s policy, but be prepared to not get FMLA leave as a recent hire. Many new parents who are also new to their jobs use other options, such as sick days and short-term disability, to take the time they need.
What can you request?
Job interviews are a process of finding a mutual fit. Just as the employer considers their needs, you should consider your own. Start where you would start regardless of your situation by researching the organization. See what information you can find about their leave policies and approach to family obligations. Does the description of the open position include benefits? Are many of the employees women? If employee bios are available, do people mention their families? The organization’s culture may indicate how accommodating they’ll be when you become a parent.
Next, think about how your schedule will look once you have a child; your life will change, and you want to be sure to plan for that going forward. A short commute or proximity to a daycare may be important to you in a workplace. You might want the ability to work from home, or the flexibility to adjust your hours within (or outside of) the 9-to-5 day. Figure out what accommodations you need as well as where you’re willing to compromise.
While the best time to ask specific questions about these issues is after you get an offer, pre-interview research can give you a sense of what the organization might offer in the way of accommodations and benefits for new parents.
During the interview your task is to sell yourself as a candidate. The conversation should be about your qualifications, not your family status. If an interviewer repeatedly asks about how you’ll handle parental leave, steer the conversation back to your interest and enthusiasm for the position.
An employer’s perspective
Here’s the good news: if you make it to the interview stage, the employer is already rooting for you. However, keep in mind that different organizations have different needs. Smaller organizations are likely to be more impacted by a leave of absence. Similarly, if a position requires travel or participation in an immediate project, the timing of your leave may not work for the job.
The best way to get around employer concerns is to emphasize your flexibility and commitment from the start. If you choose to disclose your status as an expecting parent, come prepared with a plan for how you’ll meet the job’s obligations during your major life change. In addition to reassuring an employer you can do the job, this tactic also illustrates your ability for thinking ahead and considering the needs of others.
To tell, or not to tell?
Ultimately, the decision to disclose your status as an expecting parent is a personal one. There are pros and cons either way. Here are a few reasons you may choose to share your news during the interview:
- Setting a tone for transparency, honesty, and trust. Being forthright with an interviewer gets your relationship off to a great start.
- Clearing up any misconceptions. Employers may assume a new parent will either lose interest in their job or be too overwhelmed to work. You can use the interview to prove you’ll remain dedicated.
- The response may be positive. The potential employer could support your parental leave plans. You won’t find out unless you discuss the topic.
- Your condition is obvious. If you’re visibly pregnant, it’s best to address the situation head-on.
Here are some reasons you may choose to wait on sharing your news with a potential employer:
- You prefer not to share. Job interviews are stressful enough without revealing personal information. Pay attention to your own personal comfort level and rapport with the interviewer. If you’re more comfortable keeping your status to yourself, go with your gut.
- The employer is not required to know. If you wouldn’t disclose any other medical condition or family event during an interview, you don’t need to disclose this one.
- Keep the focus on the job. Having a child is a huge life milestone for you, but it’s not likely to affect your progress at the organization in the long term. So instead of using valuable interview time to talk about your growing family, focus instead on why you're a great fit for the position.
If you’re adopting
Adoptive parents deal with slightly different concerns. Though an adoption may not require you to be hospitalized, you’ll attend meetings and you may also need some time to travel. Add these responsibilities to parental leave and bonding with your new child, and it’s quite a time commitment.
Additionally, adoptions can take years to finalize—so it could be a while before you require that time off. The further along you are in the adoption process, the more you may want to consider sharing your plans with a prospective employer.
Adoptive parents, new foster parents, and new legal guardians have the same FMLA rights to parental leave as biological parents. But like biological parents, you won’t qualify for FMLA leave as a new employee. You’re also unlikely to get short-term disability leave.
You may, however, find the job offers some flexibility for you to handle adoption-related meetings and paperwork during work hours. Mentioning your adoption during the interview can help you clarify what policies the organization has in place to assist you. Some states expand on FMLA coverage for new parents, so check the laws in your state.
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