No manager support after taking pregnancy sick days

I found out I was pregnant very soon after returning from my honeymoon. I started feeling sick and went off most foods. Because I was being sick so often, I told my employer I was pregnant earlier than I would have liked. I didn’t want them to think I was unreliable. I was spending lots of time in the bathroom, being late for meetings because I’d have to run to the bathroom. I even had to pull over on my drive into work and I was being physically sick at all times of the day.

I remember some of the casual comments made by my manager throughout my pregnancy. In a team meeting she said that I was ‘the only person who doesn’t know how pregnant she is’. It was before my first scan, so I didn’t have a date yet and my periods had become irregular when I came off the pill. It didn’t feel right that I had to justify this, it was personal.

I only actually took five sick days during my pregnancy. This was generally if I’d had a run of several days being particularly sick and then I only took one day to recover. However, I remember my department head saying that in her experience morning sickness only affected you for half an hour or so in the morning. Therefore, it was ok if I came in half an hour later. My manager added that ’she could no longer support me’ if I took any further sick days. She didn’t clarify what she meant by this. I was being sick at all times and eating very little.

It came to the point where I spent a whole weekend crying. My midwife was telling me to take time off because I was anaemic and run down. The day I rang in sick for the fifth time, I was so scared to speak to my manager that I rang a HR colleague directly. I worked in HR myself. They noticed that my manager was sat at her desk, so asked why I had not rung my manager. I burst into tears, explained what had happened and that I thought they would sack me for being poorly. They explained my rights and reassured me.

All went much better for my final month of pregnancy, but relationships soured again when I returned to work. I really enjoyed the work, but I got frequent calls from nursery to collect my son because he kept getting a temperature. The response from my manager would be ‘Can’t your husband pick him up?’. At the time my husband worked in sales and travelled, so it never worked out that he could get there quick enough. My baby was poorly and crying, so of course I wanted to pick him up as quickly as possible.

In the end I made the decision to resign from a job I enjoyed. My son seemed unhappy, so I made the decision to put him first. We had a long commute to work and because of my 8am start time, I think the long days really affected him.

I did consider whether I should put in a complaint. I knew other mums who felt the organisation was unsupportive because they were unwilling to allow later start times (after 8am) and this really affected your childcare choices. The reason I think my manager reacted so badly was because my colleague announced she was pregnant a week before me and we didn’t see her much after that. Rumour had it that she placed a complaint and received a pay-out. Unfortunately, she was unable to contact us after leaving the organisation.

In the end resigning was the best decision for me. I placed my son in a nursery close to home and I found a supportive employer where I’ve been able to progress my career above and beyond where I thought I ever would. Do I regret not putting in a complaint? A little bit, but I don’t know if it would’ve changed anything. I had raised my concerns with HR. I think they would’ve looked to pay me off and keep me quiet, unless I was willing to take it further. I took the view that my mental health and the health of my baby was the priority for me. I was lucky that financially I could manage until I found another job. I appreciate that others may not be so lucky and more needs to be done to protect them.


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