I battled to return to work after my first pregnancy for three days a week. My childless-by-choice female manager made life difficult from the start. For example, I requested to start at 8am and finish at 5pm as my son’s nursery shut at 6 (normal office hours were 9-6) and her reply was to ask what on earth I would do for the first hour in the day when no one else was around. It struck me that this was a question that you might ask a junior member or staff rather than a loyal, experienced, senior employee who you’ve trusted and worked well with for many years. The answer in case you are wondering is that I would get more done in that first hour of the day when I wasn’t being disturbed every few minutes than I would at any other time. It was very obvious that my manager was totally against having part-time members of staff working with her but I think as a result of HR wanting to be seen as giving mothers flexible working it was agreed that I could work three days a week on a trial basis.
As a senior manager I had put everything in place to make this work and it was working well for me and the rest of my team, but my line manager decided that it wasn’t working because she was too busy. I suggested we find a job share which she immediately dismissed despite the fact that there was another manager in the office who was returning from maternity leave and would have loved the job share role. She said I had to go to four days a week.
At this point in time I knew I was pregnant again but I hadn’t yet told anyone. I made it very very clear that I didn’t want to do four days, but all other options were dismissed and it was laid on the table as four days or nothing. I therefore signed a new four day week contract and told them I was pregnant the next day (the look on her face was priceless!). Miraculously, two days later I was summoned to a meeting with my manager who told me (big smiling face, being overly nice) that she had now found a way for me to do three days a week, but there was a catch. It involved me taking a 15% pay cut, and a demoted roll. So now I’d been offered three days a week on a 3-day-week salary less 15% doing a job I was over-qualified for. I pointed out that there wasn’t much point me taking that option as my salary wouldn’t cover childcare costs, but not only that, I felt totally undervalued. I had worked at that company for years, was a senior and well respected member or staff, had flown through every appraisal with flying colours and now they wanted to cut my salary. I said thanks very much but I’d stick to my new four day week contract knowing that I only had a few months to get through before I could go on maternity leave again, take my four day week maternity pay then never ever step foot in that office again. I felt so sad at being forced out like that after such a successful career. I didn’t feel I could complain because if I ever wanted to work in media again I’d be seen as a trouble maker.
As it happens, about a year after I left, a number of redundancies took place. All part time staff in my department were made redundant which by default meant that they got rid of every working mum in the department. The only females left on the floor were junior assistants and my manager.
I still feel bitter about my experience years on, but as soon as you start talking to other mums you realise just how common this sort of thing is.