I worked in a senior management role for a local authority, I had been dedicated to the service for 10 years and worked my way up to this role through hard work. I had even delayed starting a family to get to a senior position fearing that if I didn’t, I would never get there. Due to many restructures, for 3 years I was paid an honorarium for doing this senior role, I repeatedly asked for my pay scale to be made permanent as it had been ongoing for so long, but I was always told I would get the role in the next restructure so there was no need to worry. I was successfully selected to be in the first cohort for senior management training, all my appraisals were excellent and there was never any issue with my performance. My career prospects looked fantastic and I was told the same. Then I became pregnant, I left work to go on maternity leave, a month later they recruited a man to cover my maternity leave. 5 months later a restructure was announced and I was invited in to a meeting. This was the first moment I knew things were different, my boss totally blanked me at the meeting. A couple of months later when the new structure and roles had been decided I was told that as the role that I had previously been doing had been rewritten, although the job was exactly the same, and graded 2 grades higher then my job grade (they used my substantive grade rather than the grade I had actually been paid for 3 years prior) so I could not be slotted in to the role, and it would have to go to an interview.
I decided to do some keeping in touch days to try to refresh my skills, I was sat next to the man covering my job, he took delight in telling me he was going to apply for the job when it was advertised. I also had meetings with my boss, where he would say I needed to think hard about what it would be like having a senior role and now being a mother. I felt my only option at this stage was to go to the interview. This was the most degrading 2 hours of my life. I was put in a room with a 50 page document that my replacement must have been working with on a daily basis and told I had 15 minutes to come up with a presentation from it’s contents, I was being set up to fail. I hadn’t been at work for 11 months by the time the interviews were held and it was daunting to say they least, and made worse knowing that the only two candidates were me and the man covering my maternity leave.
Needless to say he got the job. I couldn’t help but think if i had been in work, he wouldn’t have even been able to apply, as it was only open to internal candidates. At this point I realised that something very, very wrong was going on. I started to fight, they weren’t going to offer me an alternative position and I was put on the at risk register, they then offered me a team leader role, that was similar to the role I was doing over 5 years ago in grade and responsibility. I turned it down. I started a tribunal claim for sex discrimination and unfair dismissal. They panicked and said another job had been found that was equivalent in grade to the one I was doing on my honorarium, it had clearly been made up and wasn’t a real job. It was actually the same job description as the previous role my boss was doing and he even forgot to change the job title. I declined. When all this was going on my 12 months maternity leave came to an end but they didn’t want to officially sack me, as I couldn’t claim for unfair dismissal until I had been sacked, so they told me they would start to pay me my old wage, when I was still at home, as I technically had no job to do. This carried on for 3 further months, until they offered me a payout with a gagging clause. I was so exhausted and angry that I had missed out on my maternity leave with my son as I had been dealing with all of this that I eventually agreed to take the money and drop the claim. It is now 7 years on, my confidence to go back into employment (and generally) has been destroyed. We struggle financially, and I am so bitter that justice was never done. If I could fight the fight again now I would, just so that I could know for sure that how I was feeling was right and that they were in the wrong.