I went on Mat Leave 100% believing I could come back to the same working structure; nobody had given me reason to doubt this.

I began working for a leading publisher of women’s magazines 8 years ago. In 2017 my husband and I were relocated to Germany as he is a Commissioned Officer in the Army. My then Director allowed me to work from home 3 weeks a month and then spend 1 week in London. I moved back to the UK in July 2017 to Emsworth on the South Coast. My Director got made redundant and I began reporting into a new guy who was the Director of the Wider Commercial Team. We arranged a 6 month trial of me working 3 days at home and 2 days in London as my journey door to door is 2.5hours each way. The trial began in August 2017 and ended when I went on Mat Leave in March 2018. So, it lasted for 7 months. At no point was the trial reviewed, at no point did anybody say it wasn’t working for the business; in fact, the business was booming! I went on Mat Leave 100% believing I could come back to the same working structure (nobody had given me reason to doubt this). 

I managed 2 areas of business: Loose Inserts and Bound Inserts. When I went on Mat Leave, Loose Inserts got outsourced to a 3rd party company and Bound Inserts was distributed to the wider commercial team. I was given one week to do a handover and when I left, most of the people taking over my job were underprepared for the role and overworked as it was. I’ve looked at the ad revenue figures from 2018 whilst I was off, and Bound Inserts were down on revenue from 2017. I put this entirely down to the companys inefficiency at organising a proper handover when I left.  6 weeks ago when I went into London to discuss my return to work I found I was reporting into a new guy. He was very nice and I do believe he is just the puppet; he isn’t pulling the strings. They announced that I was returning to the same job (without the Loose Inserts side of it) but they wanted someone in London 4 days a week. The reason being that the business needed ‘rebuilding’ and they wanted someone to be able to just ‘pop’ to meetings externally and internally. I said no. It’s just too far to travel. And also, why is my working pattern changing? We did a trial, nobody said it was unsuccessful so why does it need amending? I got radio silence for 2wks after that meeting, presumably because they were checking where they stood legally. When I heard from them again, they started calling my job a ‘new role’. I’ve since learned this is a common thing for companies to do to get around maternity issues. We negotiated for another 5 days and they said I could do 3 days in London, 2 days from home I said ‘that’s 3 whole days my 11 month old won’t get to see her Mum. I won’t get home in time to put her to bed and I leave before she’s awake, can I at least leave at 1530 on the third day in London so I can see my daughter’. They said no to that because ‘most meetings take place between 1400 and 1500’. That was their reasoning. They said ‘just do Mon, Weds and Thur in London so it breaks up the week’. There seemed to be no compassion for my mother/daughter relationship. They told me they had removed the Claw Back clause; previously I had to return to work for 6 months or had to pay back the money I took whilst on Mat Leave. So, if I handed in my notice tomorrow there would be no financial repercussions, which is a huge relief. I was told by a lot of friends I could take them to court but as it is, I am now interviewing for a job at a local media company 30 mins down the road from where I live. Hopefully I get it! 

I thought I would take the job on the 3 month trial they have suggested, hopefully get the other local job and therefore I don’t have to worry about a break in pay cheque. I spoke to 3 other working mums at the company last Thursday and they have all had an awful time returning to work. All of their Flex Working Requests have been denied, the reason given is that it is ‘detrimental to the business’. It seems the leading publisher of women’s magazines isn’t as flexible as they pose. 

Should I get this other job I will be speaking to the CEO when I leave (he has always had an open door policy) to let him know that his vision of ‘agile’ working is not being practiced at a lower management level. I have had to do this trial with the company because I need the money but I want to make as many people aware as possible that they are NOT flex-working friendly and they have made my return to work utterly miserable. I used to love my job (still do) but I now hate the company. 


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