Pregnancy – the great debate

We face some interesting dilemmas here on a regular basis.  It’s bound to happen of course, given we are the brokers between a company with a hiring need, and the professionals who want to secure that great next job.

Pregnancy is one of these dilemmas and let me share some real life scenarios with you, all of which involved highly experienced and accomplished professionals of 15+ years work experience on six figure salaries.

Situation 1:

HR Director going through an application process.  Knows that the role to be undertaken requires extensive travel, and an array of business challenges that demand “face time” to achieve resolution.  Prospective employer thinks the HRD is fantastic, and is going through the hiring process with a definite intent to make an offer.  Right at final stage, the HRD mentions to us that she is pregnant, and it’s been so tiring to have the demands of that and attending interviews, and wonders how she’ll manage to juggle the birth time with a work conference that she would be expected to attend if she was in the new role.  We of course, ask whether she’s discussed this with the prospective employer and her initial answer?  “I don’t think I should tell them, because they might not offer me the job.  And you shouldn’t tell them either, in fact, we’ll keep it as our little secret”.

 Situation 2:

HR SVP going through an application process.  Knows that the role to be undertaken requires extensive travel, and a team that needs to be built and developed, and an array of business challenges that demand “face time” to achieve resolution.  Prospective employer thinks the HR SVP is fantastic, and has just made an offer of employment to her.  Right now, the HR SVP mentions to us that she’s going to start a second round of IVF treatments, and has had advice that she should fall pregnant within weeks; and wonders how she’ll manage to juggle the treatments with a birth all in her first year of the new job.   We of course, ask whether she’s discussed this with the prospective employer and her initial answer?  “I don’t think they need to know.  Anyways, once I’m in the job, they will just have to work around my personal situation”.

Situation 3:

HR VP going through an application process.  Knows that the role will have him abroad for the first 3 months and then with high travel and long haul flying for the following 6 months before settling back to occasional travel.  Prospective employer thinks the HR VP is fantastic, and is about to make an offer of employment to him.  Right at final stage, the HR VP mentions to us that his wife has been in hospital for the last 4 weeks with pregnancy complications, and will remain in hospital for the 3 month balance of her term.  We already know from other discussions that he and his wife have no family nearby and no support network.  We of course ask whether he’s discussed this with the prospective employer and his initial answer?  “They don’t need to know.  I have rights and once I’ve got the job, I can refuse the travel until my baby is born and my wife feels better”.

Interesting situations, and we have experienced plenty more instances just like these.

We achieved arguably successful and ethical resolution for each of these situations.  But I use these examples to spark the debate: Is any candidate compelled to reveal such personal detail that may impede in their successful delivery of job requirements and responsibilities; knowing full well that there’s a risk that they won’t be offered the job?  And at what point if ever, should a candidate be expecting their recruiting partner to “take the fifth” on their behalf?  I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Oh, and just for the record, two of the three HR leaders proceeded to receive a job offer with full transparency of their situations to the employer companies; and of these, one wound up accepting the job.  One of the three HR leaders will not be welcome to work with our firm in any capacity again.