Announcing your pregnancy shouldn’t be something scary, but sometimes it is. Many women worry about telling their company that they’re expecting, because they fear that they’ll receive a negative reaction. I certainly felt that way when I found out I was pregnant shortly after accepting a new job.
Imagine sitting across from your boss during your first month as an employee, and having to tell them that a baby was on the way and you’d be taking time off!
That experience sent my anxiety through the roof, so I wanted to share it with other pregnant women in Japan along with some advice on how to make the conversation go much more smoothly.
Let’s get into the tips for how to tell your Japanese company you’re pregnant!
1. Read Over Your Contact and Bring It With You
If your company is a fairly large one and has been around for a while, there is a good chance that it’ll have all of the pregnancy, maternity leave, and childcare leave policies mapped out for you. If it’s a smaller company, however, there’s a good chance that you will be the first employee to become pregnant, so there might not be a mention of it at all in the contract details.
A major eikaiwa that I worked for previously had several employees who became pregnant over the years, so it had very detailed guidelines on maternity leave, compensation, changes to the work environment, required documentation, and more. Basically the company was well prepared to handle any sudden announcements.
If your contract includes such a section, then you’re in luck, because your conversation with your company will go pretty smoothly.
However, I was not so lucky with my new job.
My new work contract was only a couple pages long, and didn’t mention anything regarding pregnancy. It was a much smaller company than I had previously worked for, and it seemed like I was the very first employee to go through the process.
If your contract doesn’t have maternity and childcare leave information included in it, I suggest printing a copy of the current policies and taking them with you. My supervisors weren’t aware of them, so I was given a bit of misinformation until the company figured things out.
2. Make Sure You’re in Good Standing With Your Company
Legally you can’t be fired for being pregnant, but that wouldn’t stop shady companies from refusing to renew your contract if it’s almost up. Sadly, pregnancy harassment is still a major issue in Japan—more so for Japanese women than non-Japanese.
In the off chance that your company will try to get rid of you or let you go, make sure that you have proof of positive evaluations for your work there. Basically you’ll want to cover yourself so that they can’t say that you haven’t been performing well or you’re unfit for the job.
It’s very unlikely that’ll happen, but it’s better to play it safe.
Many employees have one-year contracts in Japan. If your contract is near its end, then you might want to wait until your new one is signed before having a talk with your company.
That may make getting to your prenatal appointments a bit more difficult. So, you really have to use your best judgment on when to tell them.
3. Know Your Due Date and Schedule for Prenatal Appointments
The day that your maternity leave starts depends on your expected date of delivery. It’s important to see your doctor and get a confirmation on your due date in order to inform your company.
You’ll also need a schedule for your prenatal appointments. You can get this from the hospital or clinic that you’ll be visiting. Usually you’ll receive a sheet of paper that lists how often you should visit, and what types of examinations will be performed.
Having the schedule will help your company prepare for your time off and make sure that your work will be covered if needed. Knowing in advance makes things much easier for everyone.
Of course there may be times when you’ll need to take unplanned time off due to complications. It’s a good idea to have a contingency plan in place at your job if that happens.
4. Think of Work Accommodations That You’ll Need
You may not be able to perform the same physical tasks as before—especially during the later months of your pregnancy. Make a list of any tasks that may be dangerous or too strenuous for you to complete at your workplace.
You should go through the list with your boss or supervisor, and determine what kind of accommodations will need to be made. For example, you may need more frequent restroom breaks and time off your feet. You might not be able to bend down or squat, and definitely shouldn’t do any heavy lifting.
It’s important that other employees are aware of these limitations as well, so you aren’t assigned anything that could be potentially harmful to you or your baby.
5. Schedule Your Meeting
This is the big moment! You should have your contract and documentation ready, along with your lists and health information. It’s time to set up a meeting with your Japanese company to inform them of your pregnancy.
If you work for a larger company that has a Human Resources department, then you should communicate with them directly. This will be the best way to protect yourself from maternity harassment in the workplace.
If you work for a smaller company that doesn’t have an HR department, you should schedule a meeting with your supervisor, and at least one other person higher up in the command chain that you trust. It may be a good idea to have at least 1 other female present that can relate to what you’re about to go through.
Just remember that all pregnant women are eligible for maternity leave, and you can’t be fired or forced to work under dangerous conditions.
Once all of that is done, it's time to relax and look forward to having your baby! Check out the First Steps to Take If You’re Pregnant in Japan if you’re unsure of what to do next.
Best of luck to you, and congratulations!
LaShawn came to Japan in 2011 after earning her BA in Political Science at Morgan State University, and has worked as an English teacher at various public and private schools. She now teaches at a university and writes in her free time. LaShawn enjoys sharing parenting, lifestyle, and work related content. Her goal is to help expats and immigrants who are living in Japan, so that is why she created The Yokohama Life.
Full name: LaShawn Toyoda