I work for a well known media production company. I have been with them for over a decade which is rare in my industry, it’s usually a more transient, freelance based world. I intended to return from maternity leave when my baby was 8 months old with the aim to return to the ‘project’ (excuse this slightly vague terminology – I don’t want to give too much away) I was working on before I left. I had worked hard on this project until I was 38 weeks pregnant and during that time it had been incredibly successful in the media winning awards.
The month I decided to return to work was the month the contract of the freelancer who took on my position was due to finish, and a new ‘season’ start – ie, I wanted to put myself in the best possible place to return to my post. However when I spoke to work about coming back I was informed that the dates had shifted and there was ‘no longer an opening’ on the project in my original position. Instead they had something else similar for me to do (in another part of the same project) which was a demotion. If, let’s say, I usually work at a grade C position (which I had done for 4 years before maternity leave started), this was grade D. I should stipulate that my pay was to remain the same. But then this industry isn’t the sort you’d enter for the money; my job and role is about so much more than money.
There then followed a period where I was harassed and intimidated into taking this post. HR sent me an email stipulating that ‘it was the same seniority’ as my last position and that I needed to be ‘clear about the consequences of not taking this role’. When I pointed out that it really wasn’t the same seniority, which meant that I hadn’t been offered ‘a job where T&Cs were no less favourable than my original role’ as per the company’s own maternity policy, HR then called to admit that yes, actually I was right, it was a demotion, something they hadn’t initially realised.
After that they didn’t put anything else in writing but still coerced me verbally into taking the role. They gave me just 24 hours to make up my mind and said that – despite there not being any work at my grade C level – I couldn’t be made redundant as ‘my position wasn’t redundant’. They alluded I take the job or quit. Worried about losing my job with no pay off, and wanting to enjoy the last couple of weeks of maternity leave with my child rather than stressing about work and speaking to employment lawyers, I eventually accepted the job.
Upon returning it transpired that the job they lined up for me hadn’t materialised. They sheepishly admitted that there was no grade D position – in fact, there was a grade E position that needed doing. I guess they at least had the decency to apologise for the ‘menial work’ I’d have to do, and my pay has still remained the same.
Without blowing my own trumpet I had a very good reputation before my maternity leave and was often fought over to work on different projects. Cut to post baby break and I feel like I’ve been sidelined completely. I’ve been doing this grade E job for a few weeks now and am bored out of my skull. I have had a baby, not a lobotomy but I’m not sure that my company can see the difference.
Meanwhile, I’ve just found out that since I’ve been back that freelancer who took over my role? He (yes, he’s a man) is having his contract extended as a new ‘season’ is indeed on the cards and my original position is still very much needed.