I had worked for my company for 5 years and had got a number of promotions in that time. At the time I got pregnant I had a management role in the team. I was aware that the company were not brilliant with maternity and return to work, having seen women leave to go on maternity and not come back or come back for only a month or two and then be ‘forced’ out.
I was therefore apprehensive about leaving on maternity leave and adamant that I would do all of my keeping in touch days so that I didn’t become irrelevant. The first one I did when my baby was just 2 months old.
I requested to come back initially on a part time basis but made it clear that I could be flexible, if p/t wasn’t an option then we could have a conversation etc. To my surprise they accepted my request immediately. In the mean time my colleague, who was the same level as me when I left on mat leave was promoted to head of the department. He created a ‘new role’ to accommodate me and promoted his friend to my management position – but with a different job title, even though there was no consultation with me and no opportunity for me to discuss the changes to my role. In fact the person who took over the majority of my role called me to ask how to do my job!
This happened about a month or so before I was due to return. I was very upset and worried about going back to work. Which led to various health problems, but I decided I couldn’t do anything until I got back to the office. I settled my baby into nursery and returned to work.
On my first day I arrived to find I had no desk – I was ushered into a meeting room and told that my job had been made redundant and I was now on consultation and had 2 days before my first consultation where I had to justify my job. I argued that I couldn’t really do that as the job was a new role that no one had ever done before and my colleague was now doing my job, and that that role clearly still existed.
During the consultation process they said that they had created this new role for me as they didn’t think I could do my old role on a p/t basis and that the roles were different as the new role had a different name. If they had communicated with me that this was their intention, I could have made an informed decision and decided to go back full time.
Unsurprisingly I was made redundant and as I had returned from Maternity leave (for half an hour) they were under no obligation to find me a different role. The company had gone through a big restructure only 2 weeks before I returned to work, if I had been involved in this restructure I would still have had maternity leave protection and there may have been suitable roles in the company. As it was they made no effort what so ever to find me an alternative position.
I got a lawyer but because of the ‘changes’ to my roles it was difficult to prove discrimination. The legal process went on for 3 months during which time I was having panic attacks and suffering from anxiety and depression. Luckily my husbands salary was enough to support both of us – he was incredibly supportive and wanted me to take the case to court. But my mental state was so fragile I just wanted it to be over and we settled out of court.
It took another 6 months before I could get another job. I found it so hard as I had no confidence and had been out of industry for over 18 months. I took a pay cut but at least I’m back in work. I dread having another child even though I want one. Redundancies happen – I understand that but making a women redundant whilst on mat leave or straight after seems like a uniquely cruel thing to do. With the changes to tribunals and strict time limits at an already stressful time in a women’s life it is an incredibly difficult thing to get over and move on from.