‘It’s this full time role, or no job at all’

I worked for a FTSE 250 company for just on 10 years, and within that time I had my first child. At the end of my maternity leave I requested flexible working and reduced from full time hours to 3 days per week. Although it was agreed, I always got the impression it was a nuisance and managers would purposely organise meetings / discussions on my non-working days, even to the extent of booking a work trips and informing me at a later date (in the knowledge I had childcare drop off / pick up I would need to coordinate with others to attend). Workloads were high to the extent that I had to prove to my manager I was effectively working more than my full time counterparts based on my workload and output which was easy to calculate. Concerns were disregarded by my manager, who in hindsight bullied me for the best part of my employment there.

This continued until a few years later I was pregnant with my second child and began my maternity leave. After 8 months I contacted my employer to tell them I would be taking the full year and using annual leave to further extend the precious time with my child. In response to this I was told there were some business updates and if I could come in for a quick chat. I instantly felt on edge and concerned what this might mean. In the meeting I was told that the business was so busy now that I would either need to return on a full time basis or my job was to be made redundant, as simple as that, or as I was told ‘It’s this full time role, or no job at all’. I was told the same situation was affecting a colleague in London who also, coincidentally was part time. What will surprise you was I worked in HR, and this was the HR Manager taking this approach. Knowing this was completely and utterly against the law I pursued a claim through my lawyers – the business quickly tried to back track but it was clear they had made a mistake and they agreed to settle before going to tribunal.

I lost my job, I didn’t get to say goodbye to colleagues I’d worked with for so long, I left under a shroud of mystery to colleagues and most importantly – I lost time with my daughter during maternity leave, focusing on this stressful event, looking for a new role, being forced to return to work sooner than I anticipated for the fear I might not secure another role in time. It was such a heart-breaking and devastating time for me and I feel so angry the situation I was placed in, like so many other mothers and parents who are discriminated against in the workplace.

I continue to work in HR now and am a massive advocate for mothers, parents and flexible working in general, ensuring we are always doing the right thing.


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