I am a lawyer in the public sector and working in the public sector for the organisation that I do I never thought I had to worry about potential discrimination or unfair treatment after returning to work since having my first child.
A few weeks before I went on maternity leave I was interviewed for a promotion (to me it made no sense to consider me for the job as I was clearly pregnant and about to leave for a while, so why pay me more than you have to when I’m on maternity leave). Needless to say I never got the promotion but what was important to me was at the time my Manager was so supportive and he knew how much I was keen to move up in the organisation and seek out more challenging opportunities. He was incredibly supportive of my application for promotion.
Before I left on maternity leave my manager and I spoke about when I would return to work and the potential for promotion when I returned and that he would keep me updated of any positions that may come up when I was on maternity leave. I left feeling supported and confident that my time for promotion would come when I returned from maternity leave.
Two weeks before I returned to work after 10 months maternity leave my manager contacted me to let me know that another colleague had left the team and her role had become available and there was an opportunity for temporary promotion. He said he was seeking an expression of interest of no more than 750 words by the followimg day. I confirmed that I would like to apply and did so.
The following day, once he had reviewed all of the EOI he contacted me to inform me that despite being one of the most senior lawyers in the team and that my EOI was “spot on” and that he “couldn’t fault it” he had decided to give the temporary promotion to another colleague in my team. I was disappointed because I knew and I knew my team knew that I was the most obvious candidate for the temporary promotion even if I had been out of game, so to speak, for ten months.
When I returned to work, I had a face to face meeting with manager and asked him what other feedback he could offer on my EOI. He told me he could not fault it and it was excellent but he felt the position was deserving of a person who had been in the team a long time and someone he felt had worked hard and deserved it. I was so angry and disappointed, because I had chosen to have a baby and take a break for 10 months that meant that I hadn’t worked hard enough or been in the team long enough to demonstrate my worthiness of being promoted. I am not taking anything away from my colleague who was promoted ahead of me but it was clear from not only my feelings but many of those in my team including the promoted colleague that it came as a surprise that she was promoted over me.
This is an organisation that I have worked for over 7 years and one in which I have gained the respect of senior managers around me. This is also an organisation that prides itself in supporting working parents and flexible working. But having returned from maternity leave I’ve noticed that the quality and complexity of work that I have been given has reduced and any additional responsibilities that I was once given or considered for no longer come my way.