But I worked for a women’s charity, right?

My job was just a stop gap when I started it as I had recently moved in with my boyfriend (now husband) and needed to get my CV in shape. But bit by bit I worked my way from the bottom to the head of the department.

It was all pretty great at one stage-I worked for a major women’s charity as a senior manager with some fascinating women. Sure, there were drawbacks. Lots of the women in this membership were demanding and as many were older they had old fashioned views which bordered on offensive at times when it came to women’s rights. But I worked for a women’s charity, right? I had been there for 5 years. They were always going to support me having a baby and coming back to work for them. Right?

I had three miscarriages before I was pregnant with my daughter. I missed two days work for them. My boss was over the moon when I said I had gone past 12 weeks but warned me (I’ll always remember this) that although she hated saying this to me, as I was still technically only covering maternity leave for my old boss who had handed in her notice, I shouldn’t make my pregnancy public until I had my position agreed by the all female committee. So I made my report to them at 18 weeks pregnant in a massive dress and was made permanent.

I was off for a year. My old boss left and my maternity cover, a man, took over while I was away. I emailed him time and time again asking to meet to discuss my return. He was constantly evasive. I applied to come back to work part time at the end of my maternity leave not even thinking it would be rejected-after all, part time had worked for my old boss fine and I had always been clear I wouldn’t be back full time and had been fully transparent about this. My new boss had never mentioned this would be a problem.

It was rejected in minute detail. My new boss never even rang me. Everything was done via formal email or through HR. I was in shock. Their reasons were spurious but would always hold up legally. It was their word against mine that my coming back part time wouldn’t work. After all, they were offering my job back to me.

By this point I had started to develop what rapidly turned into full blown post natal depression and anxiety. I could appeal which would mean defending my position but I became increasingly anxious and withdrawn.

Childcare wise there was no way I could have gone back to work full time even if I had wanted to. I had made it clear I would be coming back part time from my first email; he had never said it was full time or nothing and I had only organised part time child care, which I had explained to him time and time again by email when begging him to be clear about my return 8 months prior to this mess. Short of throwing my 12 month old daughter into the first nursery I could get full time (which was not on the cards) I was stuck regardless of my personal feelings.

I paid £200 for a lawyer to write a without prejudice letter asking for a quarter of my salary and I would leave. Just walk away and they could get on with hiring someone they actually wanted for the job. They refused. It was this petty. It was obvious he didn’t want me back, but he wanted me gone and he wanted to keep as much money as he could.

My husband emailed HR to plead with them, reminding them of my loyalty to the business and my love of working for them. They dismissed this. He then wrote my appeal for me one morning, himself unable to sleep. He was incredible. The date was set.

My appeal was horrific. I got through it with the help of a wonderful colleague. I was told, on the Saturday evening after celebrating my daughter’s first birthday party two days before I was due to start work while having a meal out with relatives, that it had been rejected.

I handed in my notice that evening and was so distressed at the thought of stepping foot inside the building again, that my doctor signed me off sick for the full 3 months notice period.

I had spent 6 years building up my career. Here I was now with depression, post natal anxiety, crippling insecurity as to my own worth and unable to find a part time job in any position other than back to entry level. I spoke to a lawyer-they were confident we would win a case of constructive dismissal but explained it would be a hard road. I couldn’t risk damaging my mental health further and dropped it.

This was a women’s charity. A charity that claims to support women. To nurture women. To help women achieve their potential. To educate women. They say they are based on the ideals of fellowship, truth, tolerance and justice. And I still got screwed.


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