Pregnancy Discrimination – Trudi’s Story

Lots of women have been getting in touch to tell us their experiences of pregnancy in the workplace. “Trudi” told us what happened to her when she went on maternity leave.

I am currently on my second maternity leave from my employer. During my pregnancy my manager was, on the whole, very supportive. We discussed me returning to work in very loose terms and she assured me that they would be completely supportive of my needs and she saw no reason why a part-time role wouldn’t work. The company at this stage were entering my work for national awards and when I left my manager made a speech about how I was excellent at my job and going to be missed.

When it came to discussing my return to work, my manager suddenly changed tack and after weeks of emails and face-to-face discussions (all relatively polite) she was insisting that the person doing my maternity cover (a freelancer) would continued to be employed on a full-time basis and we would have the same job title. This was all because the role required travelling about twice a month and my manager was insistent that I would be unable to do this now that I was a parent (I disagreed!). It was discussed that our job roles would be exactly the same and we would be expected to share out work and responsibilities.

When I did actually return to work, my life was made absolute hell. I was constantly undermined by the person I was sharing a job title with. Meetings were held without me being there – even when I was in the office. I wasn’t included in conversations essential to the running of the business. The thing I found the hardest was that the work that I did produce was being changed at the request of my manager – not by me, but by my colleague. The changes were, in my opinion completely unnecessary, and several times after the work was changed, it was all changed back to how it was when I originally did it. In short, I was seen to be no longer the trusted, respected employee I was previous to having a baby.

It all came to a head when my manager suggested that the freelance colleague was promoted to a position above mine, but take my responsibilities, I would then take on the less important work. This was presented as a ‘refusal of my request to work on a part-time basis’ and an alternative ‘solution’. I saw this as a blatant attempt to demote me and got my union involved and launched an appeal. The union were extremely supportive of my cause.

All the while this was continuing, I continued working to the best of my ability, but my confidence was shattered. On a personal level, it affected my home life with my partner and child and I would often be depressed and weepy on my days off. During this time I didn’t take a single day off work for myself or my child being ill and took only a couple of holiday days. I was trying to prove that I was a committed and reliable employee.

During the period of discussion about job roles, another job came up. It was in a less prestigious department with fewer resources. I applied for the job and they were very happy to offer me the role. Although I was able to stay employed in the company, I did feel that I had to compromise my career and I strongly feel that I could have continued in my previous role and excelled. After 9 months working at the new job, I became pregnant again and am now on leave again. My current manager is also a Mum and extremely supportive.

I have no doubt that after my previous maternity leave, my manager was actively trying to get rid of me and she was uncomfortable with employing mothers. I strongly believe that it was viewed by my managers that in becoming pregnant, I had decided to sacrifice my career; that as soon as I was a parent it somehow changed my commitment to work and my ability to do my job. I couldn’t disagree more!

Sadly, pregnancy discrimination is more widespread than most people imagine. Before the recession, 30,000 women lost their job each year because of pregnancy discrimination. Have you had a similar experience to Trudi? What was your experience of pregnancy in the workplace? Get in touch with the team here.

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