I worked for a VERY large retail company well known for its ethics, family values and its Investor in People status.
I went on mat leave happily, taking one year off. Whilst on mat leave, I decided to put in a request for part time working pretty early, as good nursery places are sparse where I live. My manager for the last 10 years had been made redundant just months before, so my meeting was with my new manager, a bloke I was really looking forward to working with (ha).
It was all pretty formal, and I was told I could either take a member of the Union in with me or a colleague. As my working four days would impact on my closest colleague, coupled with the fact that I totally thought going down to four days would be absolutely fine, I took my colleague in with me.
Just to clarify, I’d requested to work four days a week and I’d also stated in my form that, due to my partner working shifts (he’s in the emergency services) I’d have to leave ON TIME (not early) most of the time as it would be down to me to collect baby from day care.
Firstly, nobody from HR even bothered showing up, so my manager brought another member of the management team with him. After asking reasonable questions about how my day off would Impact my team, I was then asked things like “what would you do if you took a call at 5pm (home time) when you had to leave to get your baby from nursery?” And “what are you going to do about going to Xxx on business trips? Can you still go? Do you think you are needed?”
Although I confidently answered the questions, I did feel completely attacked – what did they want me to do?? Leave a baby on the street? I told them that I’d take calls on my blackberry and business trips would just need to be sorted a bit further in advance so we take my partner’s shifts into consideration.
When I got out, I realised that they weren’t asking me about working part time, they were asking me how I’d do my JOB now Ive got a child. I will add that I’d worked there for ten years and always gone the extra mile and put in LOTS of unpaid hours.
My colleague, who was in the meeting, text me a few days later to say she was horrified with how they spoke to me. I complained to the union.
Anyway, that was by the by, as I was then told that no decision would be made about my request as the whole department was about to go through a huge reshuffle with potential redundancies.
A few months later, I attended a big presentation where we were all told that our jobs had gone and we could re-apply for some new structure ones. In my one-to-one, I was told that being on mat leave didn’t mean I had been matched to a role so I’d have to apply like everyone else. I asked them how they thought I could give 100% to a lengthy interview process when I had (at the time) a 7 month old who was teething badly and never slept well. They just looked uncomfortable and shrugged, I took a guy from my Union in though and he was amazing – he told them that I was entitled to have my entire maternity leave with no interviews etc and that I, by law, could just come back to work on the agreed day and then be told that there wasn’t a position. More uncomfortable shifting in seats. In a nutshell, they were an absolute shambles, they clearly didn’t give a shit which is a kick in the teeth after all those years.
I decided to leave, well – let’s face it, I had no choice. If I had have got a job, I’m 99% sure that they’d not have granted me part-time hours anyway. Luckily, they gave me a decent redundancy package and the union guy was able to negotiate a better PILON payout. Onwards and upwards.