They expressed a preference to keep my maternity cover on full time in my role and offered me a lesser role with a lower salary

I worked for a well known charity for 10 years, over the years they had been very supportive of my career development, year on year giving me additional responsibilities and I had a really interesting and challenging role. Then I became pregnant with my first child. On reflection I feel it is clear that my employer’s attitude changed towards me when I announced my pregnancy. As soon as I announced I was pregnant I was effectively demoted without notice or consultation. I didn’t challenge this, except verbally expressing my disappointment, because I didn’t know my employment rights, I never thought this would happen to me, I didn’t want to cause a fuss and didn’t want any stress that may have harmed my unborn baby. I was later advised that if I had challenged it in writing at the time I may have had a stronger legal case.
During my maternity leave of 1 year there was absolutely no contact from my managers which made me feel very excluded. When I asked to return to work part time they clearly expressed a preference to keep my maternity cover on full time in my role and offered me a lesser role with a lower salary. I think they just hoped I would leave. In the light of their attitude to my return to work I made the difficult decision to return to work full time on the understanding that I would be returning to the same role under the same terms and conditions. Following my return to work my maternity cover was kept on full time. I continued to be paid the higher salary, however, responsibilities were systematically and consistently removed from my role and my lead role was undermined, and so the role I returned to following maternity leave was a lesser role. On one occasion the reason given for a key part of my responsibilities being removed was ‘they thought that my childcare arrangements would make it difficult for me’ to do this part of my role. This made me feel very excluded from the team because all other members of the team were given this opportunity, including junior staff, none of whom had young children. Because of the erosion of the responsibilities within my role, there was little that distinguished my role with that of junior staff and it was clear to me I was being lined up for redundancy.
In the end I raised a formal grievance but the treatment I received was so appalling that I found another job and left. I sought detailed legal advice and was advised that I did have a case to take to Employment Tribunal for Maternity Discrimination and Sex Discrimination, and had I considered it wise to resign the moment after ‘the final straw’ I could have considered a further claim for Constructive Dismissal. However the legal advice came with a warning that there were risks attached because the burden was on me to prove my accusations and I hadn’t suffered extreme hardship, therefore the legal costs would far exceed any award from an Employment Tribunal. I could not face the stress and unaffordable expense of taking them to tribunal and I just wanted to move on from the whole sad experience – in short they got away with it! Through my experience I was supported by a Union, a women’s charity, family and friends – the law does not support you unless you have thousands of pounds for good legal support and you can provide evidence of the discrimination in black and white.
It affected my working relationships, I found out who my true friends were and who my ‘fair-weather’ friends were – a hard lesson in life but I feel stronger for it. Fortunately I was able to find another job and move on in a healthier and motivating work environment where I feel valued, and that would be my advice to anyone who finds themselves in this awful situation.

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