Adopters may face similar situations to pregnant women

I was placed in a similar situation to the women in your recent Stylist feature having been approved to adopt my daughter.  I had been employed by my company for over 3.5 years and during that period had had to deal with the mental trauma of discovering that I would never be able to become pregnant and then embarking on the long road to adoption.  At the time, there was no law in place to give women who adopted any financial benefits – no adoption equivalent to maternity pay.  I campaigned hard to my HR department at the time who eventually agreed that I could take 3 months’ adoption leave on full pay, and would then be expected to return to work.  The child I adopted was aged 3 years.  The company considered that I wouldn’t need more than 3 months since she was not a baby and that 3 months would be sufficient bonding time.  I was just grateful that I didn’t have to lose 3 months’ salary.

When the time came for my return to work I contacted HR and reminded them that my 3 months’ adoption leave was nearly up (I had heard nothing from the company during my 3 months’ leave) and that I would be coming back to work as agreed, but that I would like them to consider whether I would do so on a part time, possibly 3 day per week basis.  I had a 4 hour daily commute and I felt that coming back full time would take too much time away from my family.  I was told that this would be considered and a meeting was set up, but I was told not to bring my child with me- my intention was that my partner and I would bring our adopted daughter into the office as my colleagues had all expressed a strong desire to meet her, and this was always done when colleagues gave birth to new babies, and my partner would take care of her while I attended the interview.  Thinking this was an odd request, nevertheless I went into the office.  Upon arrival I was immediately handed a letter advising me that my position had been redundant and I was told the same in person by a junior member of HR.  I was shell-shocked – the implications of losing both a job I enjoyed and a regular salary was devastating to our family unit.  I was the only breadwinner as a condition imposed by Social Services at the time of adopting was that one of us had to be a stay-at-home parent, therefore my partner had given up his job.  At first I was advised I would receive statutory redundancy pay but a friend advised me to consult a lawyer, who managed to negotiate a slightly better severance package for me (about 4 months’ salary) but this was only on the basis that I agreed to sign an NDA.  I felt I had no choice but to sign in order that I could have the comfort of being able to pay the mortgage and bills for the next few months while I looked for another job.

My confidence and self-esteem was severely affected and, I believe, this experience was what kick-started my issues with insomnia and depression (given that neither had been a problem previously).  I don’t believe I ever fully recovered from the feelings of simply being discarded and thought of as an inconvenience by my former employers and I have always seethed inwardly that I have never been able to express my anger at the unfairness of the situation I found myself in, due to having to sign the NDA.

I really just wanted to express to you that adopters may face similar situations to pregnant women although, I’m glad to say that, since my experience the law has changed and adopters now have similar legal financial maternity provisions to those who are pregnant.
With grateful thanks to you for all that you are doing to raise awareness to this situation which I know continues to cause untold distress to many women.



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