This makes me angry every day. I had no choice but to sign that NDA.

I had been working as a business partner is a small, successful, growing business, doing work that I enjoyed with a team that I loved and had helped to build, support and train. I had always had excellent relationships with all of my clients and did good work.

Things went downhill when I became pregnant – tensions started rising as I could see and feel their concern about my being away and not “paying my way” in the business, so to speak. Relatively early on, one of three business partners, I was told I should propose a “solution” to my going on maternity leave – ie. find a way that it would be “fair” to the other business partners. This put the onus on me and I was wracked with anxiety about having to come up with a financial suggestion at a time when I felt vulnerable, tired and feeling ill. We eventually agreed a complex arrangement that was not great, but at least there was clarity.

The day before I went on maternity leave, the other two informed me that one of the business partners would become CEO and the other Chair the following month. I had 10 minutes in which to discuss this with them before I left. There was no discussion of the implications for me, despite my protests.

At 2 months postnatal, the financial agreement we had come to was reneged on by my partners based on a flimsy legal argument which my lawyers said didn’t hold up.

When I went in to discuss coming back to work at 4 months postnatal, still exhausted and wracked with anxiety and feeling guilty about being away even for 4 months, but under significant financial pressure, I was told they wanted a “clean break” and for me to exit the business. They offered me a 25th of the value of my shares (based on an independent accountant) and hoped I would go away quietly.

At that point I hired a lawyer. A horrendous few months of fighting went on, funded out of my savings which were decimated (and had already taken a hit from their reneging on our agreement) at a time when I should have been enjoying the first few months of my first baby’s life. I had post natal depression. In the end, we agreed on a settlement figure but I had to let go of the true value of the shares as advised by my lawyers, the only way to force them to pay true value would be to go to high court (1-2 years more of litigation and 10s if not 100s of thousands of pounds).  I was exhausted. Financially, psychologically and emotionally broken by it all. I accepted and had to sign an NDA as part of it.

The settlement brought me up to a decent financial position but it has not fixed the trust that was broken – I am much more sceptical of people in general now. I can also NEVER get that time back with my son and I am still being treated for postnatal depression. The scars will be there for a while.

I am also re-traumatised every time I see the company posting all over social media, winning awards for the “best employer” as they have done since then. Their status partly comes from espousing exceptional social values, and their main clients are social good organisations (many of them high profile women’s rights organisations).

This makes me angry every day. I had no choice but to sign that NDA. But not a day goes by that I don’t consider whether I should break it and just give the money back so that I don’t have to feel the burning injustice of it all as a continuing trauma.


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