19 May 2021
Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a minute?” This week, telling your employer you’re pregnant, navigating your working life when things are tough at home and the all important COVID-19 vaccine.
Your question brings back so many memories since I know finding the right moment to tell anyone you are having a baby – let alone telling a new boss – is tough. Too soon and you worry some unexpected reason will miraculously appear as to why you are no longer in the running for the job (and yes, that is discriminatory and against the law but any pregnant woman will tell you that fear is real).
A few things to think about in terms of when to share the big news. First things first, if you have already excitedly shared the news on your public-facing socials, you are best to ’fess up early. Your bun is already well and truly out of the oven, so to speak. However, if it is early days and very few people know, then you should feel free to keep the news to yourself until you are feeling comfortable to share more.
Once your pregnancy is progressing well, the morning sickness has hopefully passed and as the Superwoman you are, you are offered the new job, you might like to let a potential employer know then. Perhaps even channel New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who, just three months after her election simply announced that she would be joining the many parents who wear two hats. She also reminded everyone that she is hardly the first woman to multitask. A perfect response and frankly, all that needs to be said.
I sometimes need to take time off work because of my situation at home. My husband can be pretty volatile, and it can be hard to go into the office after a fight. I am too embarrassed to tell anyone at work and I find ways to cover my absences, or I take annual leave. When I am away, I am worried my bosses will think I am not committed to my job which is far from the truth. What should I do?
Thank you for getting in touch and for raising such an important issue. The first question to ask yourself is, who is the person you most trust at work, who you feel can sit and listen without judgment? You might be surprised at the number of leaders, particularly female leaders, who may have experienced this themselves and will want to do all they can to help. You are definitely not alone even though I am sure it must feel that way far too often.
If you can tell even just one person at work what is happening for you at home, it might also give you some peace of mind about not seeming committed to your job. The last thing anyone wants is for you to lose your job because of what you are having to deal with privately.
Finally, talking to someone at work you trust means you might be able to see if you can access domestic violence leave which may remove the pressure of having to find reasons to be away from work. It also means you’re able to save your annual leave for when you really need it. Please remember you can also call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) any time you need to for advice and support.
Please get the vaccine. Listen to the science. Read the data. Stay safe.
No, your boss can’t force you into a chair, pull up your shirt sleeve and make you have the vaccine. However, while it is yet to be tested in court, there may be a chance if you refuse to have it that you might lose your job. The Fair Work Commission recently upheld a decision to sack an employee after she refused to have a mandatory flu shot at her workplace. In terms of whether a similar situation might apply to the COVID-19 vaccine, we still don’t know, but your employer has an obligation to do all they can to keep you and your customers healthy and safe and that may be seen to include requiring you to be vaccinated.
Send your questions about work, careers and leadership to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your name and any identifying information will not be used. Letters may be edited.