I had been working for a company for 6 years when I found out I was pregnant. In the 6 years I had been promoted 4 times and loved my job, working above and beyond because I enjoyed what I did. I had a good relationship with the CEO and other senior management. My clients were delighted with the work I did and my team were happy and very successful. (I was based in Manchester and Head Office was in London).
A few months before I found out I was pregnant the company acquired a new MD. He was young and dynamic and I thought I got on with him. At 13 weeks pregnant when I told him my news, he seemed to be annoyed with me for not telling him before. I had some health concerns during my pregnancy, but the role enabled me to work remotely and I worked from home when necessary. But I always worked, whether from home or the office and travelled frequently to meetings without question. My line manager and my team were very supportive of me and at about 6 months pregnant it was suggested that I could work a day a week from home.
When I went on maternity leave, my role was covered by someone who had previously worked in my office, so I felt reassured that he knew the business well enough to take care of things in my absence. How wrong I was. He did very little and left the team to pick up on his errors. When it came to organising some KiT days, I was invited to a meeting with my line manager and the HR manager. I discussed with them my intention to request that I return 4 days a week and I also wanted to negotiate my start and finish time. I had been working 8-5 and basically wanted to come in a bit later so I could drop my daughter off at nursery. I put it all in writing to the MD and the response was that flexible working could not be considered and it would be unlikely that I could change my start time. I had colleagues in the London office who had come back from maternity leave on a 3 day a week contract, so I never thought for a second that my request would be turned down.
I was then invited to a further meeting where it was suggested to me that if I couldn’t come back full time then there wouldn’t be a job for me. I was told that redundancy was not an option and it was my decision to either come back full time or not at all. I asked for reasoning behind rejecting my request and was told that it was ‘financial’. I was then advised that my role was being absorbed by my peers in our London office, but that redundancy was still not an option. There were no other roles within the business offered to me and the only suggestion was that I could move to London.
I was told that if I handed in my notice, as a ‘goodwill gesture’ they would pay me 6 weeks salary, which funnily enough would have been the redundancy payout, but it wasn’t redundancy…..! I was also advised that because I was accepting this money that it wouldn’t be worth my while looking into unfair dismissal. My financial situation meant that I couldn’t have turned the money down.
Throughout this whole process, I never once heard from the MD. No note of congratulations when my baby was born, no contact whatsoever. I went to the London office to see some of my colleagues before officially finishing work. I met the MD in reception. His only comment to me was that he liked the flower brooch I was wearing……. I was actually speechless. Still no reference to the fact that I had had a baby, been on maternity leave and was leaving the company.
Finding myself unemployed, having to leave a job I loved and was very much looking forward to returning to, I lost a lot of confidence and began to doubt my skills and abilities. I thought I must have done something wrong to make them want to get rid of me. My team was upset that I wasn’t returning and in the following couple of years they have all left the company.
I did get a very good job a few months later, but by that time I had become a bit depressed and found it very difficult to settle in. I lasted 18 months and then moved to a very different industry in a part time role with much lower pay. I do still think about what might have made them want me out of the business and it does still upset me. I loved my job.
I am appalled that women are subjected to being treated in this way.