In 2012 I had decided to leave the safe, warm embrace of PAYE and took the big leap into a life of self employment. I had some really valuable experience and a healthy reputation in the arts and digital sectors along with the freedom of no dependants, so there was really no better time. I had noticed that Nominet Trust were looking for interesting project ideas that would support the development of charities and their activities through digital technology so I took an idea to a friend who ran a charity in the North East. The project was essentially a design methodology, something that I had developed expertise in from my previous experience. We worked together to draft an application and after 7 months work, we subsequently received funding to develop the project. As a freelancer, I had not been paid for any time I had dedicated to the project prior to successful funding (around 12 months), but I had freely accepted this as we had verbally agreed that I would lead on all aspects of the project and I would be paid a set day rate for my time, if funding was granted.
Then the following happened (no opinion, just facts):
– The project bid was successful and I commenced work under a gentleman’s agreement whilst we ironed out the creases.
– I was sent the 12 month contract for my role as project manager 3 months after this position had commenced (I had been requesting one for several months).
– Before I signed it I informed the charity that I was 4 months pregnant and I detailed how I would ensure the project was effectively managed once I was on maternity leave (for the last few weeks of the project – it would have been absolutely seamless).
– I then received a text message from the CEO saying they had concerns about how this would affect their charity, then without any further contact, I received a voicemail 3 days later saying that my contract was being rescinded. They asked me to hand over all of the assets for the project immediately.
I sought legal advice but was informed that as I was self employed this was contract law and not employment law and as I hadn’t signed the contract (and neither had they), I would be on rocky ground. I could prove it was discrimination and the solicitor did think there was a chance I would win a legal battle, but I had a difficult pregnancy to contend with and my family were keen that I didn’t escalate the problem with further stress. I lost a very good friend and was put through a horrible few months by this situation.
I spent a lot of time soul searching about my career aspirations following this incident. Being unceremoniously sacked (particularly by someone you know personally and had trusted) can leave you feeling delicate, bruised and lacking in confidence. Thankfully, an ideal opportunity arose not long after this had taken place and that helped rebuild my confidence and showed me that not all employers will look upon you unfavourably because you are pregnant or have just had a baby. I doubt others would be as lucky.