Before I got pregnant, I had over 5 years continuous service. In that time I’d worked my way up from an admin temp job to a full time permanent position, and then after a year got selected by a manager from a different department who then coached me in a business improvement role. At the time that I notified my manager I was pregnant, I covered contracts nationally throughout the UK. I was held in high regard, my time was very sought after, and I was responsible for the performance of over 50 admin staff, as well as developing and maintaining relationships with our clients on multi-million pound contracts.
Soon after I notified my employer I was pregnant, they informed me I would receive only SMP. As I had TUPE’d in to the business and had not signed a new contract at any time, my contractual right to a whopping 11 weeks of 50% pay were still legally valid. My employer refused to adhere to the TUPE regulations. My line manager advised me to raise a grievance against him, as he did not agree with the refusal but the decision had been made at a level higher than him. I raised the grievance, and while this happened, a company wide pay rise of 2.8% was implemented. I was not given the pay rise. I managed to find out that, in a company with over 1000 employees, only 7 people had not received that pay rise. 5 of them had recently had a promotion and an associated pay increase higher than 2.8%, and 1 was leaving before the pay increase would be implemented. The 7th person was me.
After my grievance was carried out, they insisted they would not pay the contractual maternity pay. I appealed the grievance, and also added in that I had been excluded from the national pay rise for no good reason. THe outcome of this grievance was that they refused to pay contractual maternity pay and that I had been excluded from they pay rise due to having had a fuel card issued over a year previously.
I appealed this second grievance outcome, which would now be heard by a director. I upheld that they should pay me contractual maternity pay as specified in my employment contract. I also provided 7 written and signed statements from other (all male) employees who had received a fuel card within the time frame that I had, and had been included in the 2.8% payrise. After I submitted my appeal, I was taken out of my normal daily duties and placed on a ‘project’ that was in essence a data entry/validation task and stripped of all my previous responsibility. They refused my appeal at this third stage and told me that they would not discuss the matter further.
At this time I chose to take my case to tribunal and appealed. In my submission to the tribunal, I listed what had happened above, and I also added in 3 instances where a vacancy had been given to another colleague when I had not had the opportunity to apply.
This was all throughout my pregnancy, and added a huge amount of stress, worry and upset during a really difficult time in my life. I did not enjoy my pregnancy at all and often wonder if it would have been easier if I had not had this employer.
The tribunal was accepted and the date was set for when my son was 12 weeks old. I was representing myself up until this point and with a newborn I just couldn’t manage any more on my own at this point. I found a local legal firm and sought advice, they agreed to represent me at my 5 day tribunal for a fixed fee of £4000. I did not have this money, and work were only paying SMP, so I decided I could not do without representation and borrowed the money. Now I had the added worry of the debt.
While we were waiting to be called in to the tribunal, my employer’s barrister said they conceded the TUPE issue and would pay my contractual maternity pay. It took me a YEAR of battling them through my pregnancy and then they just agree they were wrong to refuse?! I felt sick. The maternity pay was enough to cover my legal costs so at this point I was relieved I would not be out of pocket.
The tribunal went ahead. I had to leave my 12 week old baby for 5 full days. I had to pump breastmilk in a room with my legal representation and her student present (I used a cover but it’s not quite the same as privacy!) as that was the only available space. I had to ask the tribunal office to store my milk in their fridge. It was embarrassing and demeaning.
After a harrowing week of listening to my employer tell lie after lie about me, the tribunal was ready to give the ruling. It was found that my employer discriminated against me on the basis of my gender in 3 separate instances of promotion, where the job was given to a man and I was not given an opportunity to apply. They also ruled that the employer had excluded me from the national pay rise unlawfully and that they must apply it both immediately and retrospectively to the date it was originally issued. The tribunal ruled that the giving me the admin project/removing responsibility was not illegal and was my employer acting responsibly in concern for my health. My employer offered me an out of court settlement and I accepted it.
After taking my 12 months maternity leave, I returned to work. Shortly before I was due to return, I was invited in to a meeting with the Managing Director and the Head of HR. It did cross my mind to ask if this was standard practice for women returning after maternity leave but decided it wasn’t worth the battle! During this meeting I was told that my previous role no longer existed and that I could take a job as IT support instead. I reluctantly agreed – what choice did I have? Of course the law protects my terms and conditions including my pay, but for 2 years now I have carried out a job that a school leaver could manage with a few days’ training. At that point in time 2 other people were doing the same duties I was previously doing but under a different job title, so my employer argued it was not the same job.
I’ve submitted numerous requests for training, applied for other positions, all of which is declined or ignored. I actually haven’t had a line manager since I returned from maternity leave, so on a fairly regular basis my mileage claims or expenses are flagged up (meaning a payment delay) because the person whose signature has authorised it is not my line manager. Which of course they aren’t, because I don’t have one.
Every day I work in this place is a day where my knowledge and expertise and experience is getting more and more out of date. I am struggling to find alternative jobs at my current salary, because my experience is outdated and my current role is so irrelevant to what I did previously. Not to mention the effect it has had on my motivation, as well as my emotional and mental health.
I’m still employed so I suppose I wasn’t technically forced out of my job due to pregnancy. But having had a child and looking around my desk now, my working life is devoid of all the achievements and responsibility that I worked so hard for, so I do feel like I was forced out of my job as they simply took it away from me.