Serine 2 phosphorylation (S2P) within the CTD of RNA polymerase II is considered a Cdk9/Cdk12-dependent mark required for 3′-end processing. However, the relevance of CTD S2P in metazoan development is unknown. We show that cdk-12 lesions or a full-length CTD S2A substitution results in an identical phenotype in Caenorhabditis elegans. Embryogenesis occurs in the complete absence of S2P, but the hatched larvae arrest development, mimicking the diapause induced when hatching occurs in the absence of food. Genome-wide analyses indicate that when CTD S2P is inhibited, only a subset of growth-related genes is not properly expressed. These genes correspond to SL2 trans-spliced mRNAs located in position 2 and over within operons. We show that CDK-12 is required for maximal occupancy of cleavage stimulatory factor necessary for SL2 trans-splicing. We propose that CTD S2P functions as a gene-specific signaling mark ensuring the nutritional control of the C. elegans developmental program.