Communication, pregnancy and the workplace

Many people are excited about becoming pregnant but worry about how they will juggle the next 9 months and parenthood alongside work. Being open with your manager about how your pregnancy is going can make a positive difference.

The information on this page is for you if you’re carrying the baby and are an ‘employee’ of your organisation. To find out whether you are defined as an employee or another type of worker, the ACAS website can help you work out your employee status

Pregnancy can be a rollercoaster of change. Many people are excited about their pregnancy but have mixed feelings about how they’re going to juggle the next 9 months and parenthood alongside their job. 

Some people feel they need to prove themselves at work once they become pregnant, but this can add a lot of pressure at a time when you need to stay calm and well rested, for you and your baby. 

Every pregnancy is different – some pregnancies are straightforward and have no issues, and some are more emotionally or physically draining. Some pregnancies also involve several more antenatal appointments and scans than others. You won’t know exactly how pregnancy will affect you until it happens. 

Try to establish a good relationship with your manager and let them know how your pregnancy is going and how they can support you. Keeping lines of communication open and raising any issues early will help you look after yourself in pregnancy and work within your limits. 

Communicating with your line manager

By law, you don’t need to tell your employer you’re pregnant until the end of the 15th week before your due date (when you’re 25 weeks pregnant). But it’s best to tell them as soon as possible, especially if you have physical symptoms like sickness and need their support. 

Telling them early means you will also give them time to plan risk assessments and any adjustments to your job. 

Before you have the conversation, have a look at your employment contract and your organisation’s pregnancy and maternity policy. It’s also a good idea to look at the most up-to-date information on the GOV.UK website to find out about statutory entitlements such as maternity leave, keeping in touch days, shared parental leave and paternity leave. Many employers offer benefits that go beyond the statutory minimum.

Many people worry about telling their line manager about their pregnancy because of the implications of taking a longer period of leave. But try to remember that pregnancy and parenthood is a normal life transition and line managers have training and HR support to manage the situation. You are also protected by law.

Think about how your line manager might respond to your news. You could write down any ideas about how adjustments or cover might work, to help you prepare for the conversation. However, although your opinion will probably be welcomed, it’s not your responsibility to organise your cover. If you already have a lot to do, this isn’t something you need to add to your to-do list.

There’s no need to let them know when you’re thinking of starting your maternity leave and coming back from it when you start the conversation, but you could share early thoughts if you have them. 

Once you’ve decided the date that you’re planning to stop work, it’s a good idea to tell your line manager. This gives you both a date to work towards for completing any projects and organising handovers. 

You don’t need to tell them an exact date of return. Without a date, they will assume you are taking the full 52 weeks of leave that you are entitled to. If you decide to come back within this date, you need to give at least 8 weeks’ written notice.

What is the MAT B1 form?

The MAT B1 form, or maternity certificate, proves to an employer that you are pregnant and confirms your Expected Week of Childbirth (EWC). Some employers request this as soon as you tell them you are pregnant, but legally your midwife cannot sign it for you until after your 20th week of pregnancy.

You must give your MAT B1 to your employer because without it you cannot claim Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or any other maternity benefits.


For more about maternity leave and pay, go to the ACAS website.

Work opportunities while you’re pregnant or going on leave

Just because you’re pregnant or going on leave, it doesn’t mean you should miss out on opportunities at work. Some of these arrangements should continue as if you weren’t pregnant – for example:

  • Performance reviews
    You don’t need a performance review before you go on leave, but if you don’t have one, make sure this doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on a pay rise or promotion. If you feel your performance has been affected by your pregnancy or pregnancy-related illness, your employer shouldn’t take this into account either in your review.
  • Pay rises
    A pay rise cannot be withheld because of pregnancy or maternity leave. This applies if the pay rise was effective from any time between the start of the 8 week relevant period for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) and the end of the statutory maternity leave.
  • Promotion
    Your employer must contact you about opportunities such as promotions, jobs or pay rises while you’re away. They should also contact you if there is redundancy or reorganisation that could affect your role.

Managing your feelings about pregnancy and work

As well as all the physical changes during pregnancy, you may feel more emotional. This is partly due to hormonal changes and partly due to all the changes going on in your life. You will probably also be more tired than usual – remember, your pregnancy is already working you hard. 

  • Talk it through
    If you’re finding work a struggle, talk to your line manager. If you’re worried that your performance is suffering, find some new ways to stay organised – carry a notepad with you to jot things down, or follow up phone calls with emails. If you have serious needs and concerns about anything at work, it’s a good idea to confirm what you discussed by email, just so you have something in writing.
  • Don’t feel guilty
    If you need to leave work for an antenatal appointment, need to attend additional appointments or have changed your duties, try not to feel guilty. If you feel that colleagues are unhappy with anything, try to talk it through with them directly, or talk to your manager. If you need additional care and appointments, try to talk to your manager about it so they can be more understanding of your situation. But remember, you have a legal right to do these things and it’s a normal part of pregnancy. A good employer will know that your wellbeing and your baby’s wellbeing is the priority when you’re pregnant.
  • Be realistic
    Try not to put pressure on yourself. Listen to your body and your emotional needs. If you’re too tired to go out in the evening, stay in. If you don’t feel up to working late to finish a project, go home and get some rest and start fresh again tomorrow.
  • Manage your stress levels
    Not all stress is bad for us, but long-term high levels of stress can have a significant impact on your health and wellbeing. Be kind to yourself. Even if work is highly pressured, find ways to switch off for short periods throughout the day and treat evenings as a time to restore energy as much as possible. 
  • Don’t compare your pregnancy
    Every pregnancy is different. Your healthcare team may have advised you to attend more appointments or scans than other pregnancies in the organisation. Try to remember that this is to keep you and your baby safe.

If you feel very low or anxious for longer than a couple of weeks or if you don’t feel like yourself, talk to your GP or midwife. Depression and anxiety are more common during and after pregnancy, even if you’ve never suffered from these before, but most people recover with treatment.

Don’t forget the basics, either. Eating healthily, keeping active and getting a good night’s sleep will also help. We have lots of information about having a healthy pregnancy

Tips for a good handover

  • Make sure your handover is part of your to-do list early on. This helps make sure it’s not a last-minute task that stresses you out before you leave.
  • Start preparing well in advance. Keep a Trello board, Google doc, notebook or document open as you work and jot down things that people might need to know as they come up.
  • Pull together details such as schedules of anything planned, regular events, contact details and locations and passwords of any electronic or web-based resources.
  • List details of any projects or tasks that are booked in, what resources are needed, names of anyone involved, and details of who can support your replacement.
  • In your third trimester, if your work involves tasks that must be done in real-time (such as delivering training or opening a public venue), have someone lined up to cover for you if you have to leave at short notice.
  • Don’t forget to agree your out-of-office with your line manager and switch it on for your last day.
  1. Acas. Your maternity leave, pay and other rights. Available at: Accessed: 15/01/21
  2. GOV.UK. Maternity certificate (MAT B1): guidance for health professionals. Available at: Accessed: 11/06/21
  3. Equality and Human Rights Commission. During pregnancy. Pay, Promotion, Reviews, Breaks and Benefits: Available at: Accessed: 15/01/21
  4. NHS. Stress. Available at: Page last reviewed: 15 October 2019, Next review due: 15 October 2022. Accessed: 17/01/21
Review dates
Reviewed: 11 June 2021
Next review: 11 June 2024