Mumifesto: maternity discrimination
Mumifesto: my experience of maternity discrimination
You’ve probably heard the stats, that over 54,000 women experience maternity discrimination in the workplace. But what’s it like being one of them?
In 2012 I took a job I loved, and spent 2 years working hard to provide diverse women with community courses building their confidence to gain positions in public life. I raised thousands in funding, devised innovative projects and supported women who are now County Councillors, University graduates and charity Chairs.
Most importantly, at each of my personal development reviews, I had glowing reports. Then I took maternity leave.
The warning signs were there; I was locked out of my email account, my boss ignored my messages to discuss my return and my profile was removed from the list of staff on the website.
I was offered an ‘enhanced’ payment of about £1.5k which they assumed would make me happy enough to disappear into motherhood. It wasn’t. I love my job and wanted to return. The series of mistakes made led me to raise a grievance with my employer.
Unable to attend the meeting in person, (it was held 3 hours away in London and I was in early breast-feeding stage), I was grilled over the phone in a tit for tat conversation where my employer raised my supposed wrongdoings. I was confused, this was as new to me as motherhood, and I stumbled my way, lonely and emotional, through the meeting.
The outcome? A few admissions that they would communicate better with future staff on maternity leave, but at the end of the day I lost my job.
A few months later the project I was working on became an independent organisation, the project Administrator was promoted to Director of the Charity and two new staff members were recruited.
At this point I would’ve been in the 9th month of my maternity leave.
Despite my hand being forced, I accepted the redundancy, as I no longer had any faith in my employer. The lack of legal aid meant I couldn’t take my case to Tribunal. With a minimum cost of £1200, not calculating the mental health implication, I had to leave it there.
Since the introduction of fees tribunal claims have dropped by over 75%.
What happened next? I set up a social enterprise to support women back to work following a career break, though ironically, I’ve struggled to return to it fully after baby no.2 as the childcare costs are so high.
Does it still hurt? Yes, the fact I haven’t paid into a pension since then means that discrimination is going to have a lifelong impact. It’s affected my confidence, marriage and means my children don’t see me going to work in the same way as Daddy, which may impact their ideas of gender roles.
The recent UK Government announcement to boost protections is, as per Joeli Brearley, Founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, horse shit. Despite the current protections, mums like me are still being made redundant. We need radical change in the form of equal shared parental leave, affordable childcare and flexible working.
My advice? If you’re an employee thinking of stating a family or are pregnant, join your trade union and know your rights. If you feel that you are being discriminated against contact Pregnant Then Screwed, or me for some moral support.