I fell pregnant with my first child while I was a NERC-funded postdoctoral fellowship at a large UK university. I told my employer about the pregnancy when I was 15 weeks along. He seemed happy and congratulatory in the presence of the rest of our working group, but I received an email from him the next day asking me to quit so that someone else could carry on with my project. Needless to say I was incensed.
I emailed him to inform him that he wasn’t allowed to ask me to quit for several reasons, citing the terms of my contract with him, the university, and NERC, and also the terms of both the university’s and NERC’s policies and procedures for maternity leave. He backed down, but never let me forget how much of an ‘inconvenience’ my child was to his on-going projects.
He then told me that he’d never even read the policies about maternity provision because he never thought that any of his staff would become pregnant while working for him. I found this hilarious (well, no not really) given that of his full staff and student complement of 9, five (including me) were female, four (including me) were either married or in long-term relationships, and two (including me) were over 30 years old.
I’d say the odds were pretty high of at least one of us falling pregnant at some point. The fact that he felt that planning for a potential pregnancy in his research group was a totally irrelevant thing to do astounded me.