I commented that having a baby was the worst thing I had done for my career, to which the area manager said he “couldn’t possibly comment.”

From the moment I told my area manager I was pregnant his attitude towards me and my career changed. I had worked as a manager for this retailer for four years and had been told as soon as I joined them I would be able to progress with ease. I had turned around failing departments and was well respected by the team. From an early stage in my pregnancy I suffered with severe morning sickness, the area manager would comment that I was “pregnant not ill” to my direct reports if I could not make it in. Apparently pregnancy didn’t affect his wife like this so how was I so ill. I had tablets on prescription from my GP to try to help but it didn’t really make any difference. The area manager then decided they would withhold my pay for excessive absence as I had been off sick for two days in one month. I had made up the time so he had no right to do this. After calling the HR department in tears asking how I would pay my bills with them deducting absence from my wages it was decided I would be paid for any further absence. I decided it wasn’t worth damaging my career any further so I would make myself go in, sickness or not. I was then told by my line manager that the area manager had decided I spent too long being sick in the toilets so would have to do it in the bin in the managers office that I shared with five other colleagues. I didn’t want to lose my job so I did as was asked, putting up with the comments and looks from two of my colleagues.
I was moved to a department that I was unfamiliar with, I believe they were trying to set me up to fail. I turned this department’s sales around, beating their best ever results. Despite this the area manager would pick the department apart, and send in managers from other stores who would say they didn’t understand why they were there once they saw the department. That year he gave me my worst ever appraisal score – less than half my usual score – as this was linked to my bonus I ended up with less than a supervisor who I had helped with her department, even staying late for no extra pay so she was ready for stock take. The store manager then ordered me to carry some 15kg boxes, I still suffer with back problems from the damage I did that day. He also told me to complete my own risk assessment for my pregnancy. I refused as it was his responsibility and I didn’t want them to think I had made special allowances for myself.
I put in an application to return to work on a part time basis for 3 months, whilst the person who had planned to look after my baby had treatment for cancer. During my maternity leave no one had covered my role, other managers were given extra responsibility temporarily. My flexible working request was denied as apparently asking the other managers to cover my role for these 3 months was unfair on them even though they had done it for nine already. I was, instead demoted to a junior management role and put on a part time contract. For the next 3 months on my working days I was treated as if my role was no more junior than it had been before my demotion. I returned full time and was told if I wanted to gain my old position back I had to “prove myself.” I commented that having a baby was the worst thing I had done for my career, to which the area manager said he “couldn’t possibly comment.” I carried on trying to prove I could be a parent and a manager for the next four years. In these four years I was treated for post natal depression that was brought on by the way I was treated at work, worked related stress, and anxiety.
During this time I had trained a supervisor, taking a day a week out of my schedule to get her up to speed. This was the store managers role but the supervisor felt he didn’t offer the correct support. Two years in she was given a manager’s position. Things came to a head when I was heard ranting about the area manager by a HR manager. She advised me to raise a grievance. In the meeting the area manager agreed to help me gain my old role back. A week later my old position was given to the supervisor turned manager that I had trained. She carried out whatever actions the area manager told her to, including trying to belittle me in front of colleagues. This was the final straw for me and I finally felt strong enough to go for interviews and find another job. I was given another retail management position but my treatment by my first employer had a lasting impact. I was lucky enough to be in a position to take some time out and get further help with my mental health.
I am now in a part time role, doing a job I love. My employers know my child comes first and never make me feel guilty for this. My only regret is that I didn’t take any action against my first employer; however ultimately that area manager did me a favour and his actions make me appreciate my life now that little bit more.