Been back at work a week and discover I am now my maternity cover's assistant!

(50 Posts)
AugustMoon Mon 19-Aug-13 12:40:39

So, was told last week, as there have been some changes, that I would be reporting in to the guy who covered my maternity leave (who has since been promoted). Slightly annoyed but thought, hey I'm getting paid, who cares?
Today I come into the office and have been cc'd on an email from him to a regional manager saying "please send future requests to AugustMoon who is now my assistant".
Am I right to be absolutely fucking livid about this? At the very least (if this is allowed, which it can't be surely?) I should have been told about it before my return....?
Advice please.

I'm no expert but I think it depends on how long long you've been on maternity. Less than six months and you have to go back to the same role. Between 6months to a year they have to give you a job back but not the same. I'm pretty sure they must inform you though and I would be livid if i was in your position.

daimbardiva Mon 19-Aug-13 12:46:15

I can see why you're livid, but has your role actually changed - i.e. were you an assistant to the role the guy has taken on before, or have you been demoted?

allmycats Mon 19-Aug-13 12:50:36

So, you have gone back to work in the same position as you left , but the person who covered your maternity leave has been promoted and is now your senior.

Why is this a problem if you have got your old job back, some one has to be your senior, why does it matter who it is, perhaps the guy who covered your maternity leave was really good and deserved the promotion.

K8Middleton Mon 19-Aug-13 12:53:16

Were you given the option to apply for the promotion?

Even if you took longer than 6 months maternity leave you have the right to return to the same job unless there's a good reason not to. Even then any job has to be of equal and equivalent standing ie same salary, hours and other terms, same grading and same status.

I think you need to speak to whoever's his line manager (ie your secondary line manager now) to ask what is going on. I'd mention the phrases "right to return" and "maternity discrimination" to make them sweat a bit.

K8Middleton Mon 19-Aug-13 12:54:25

Also any change to your job should be done with proper consultation.

You are right to want to find out more.

AugustMoon Mon 19-Aug-13 12:56:41

I was never anyone's assistant before. I was assistant x manager (not assistant to the x manager... haha always think of the office)
I've had 2 years maternity leave because I had 2 children very close together, the baby I was pregnant with when i left was stillborn at 35 wks. It is the same as if I had had 2 children and 2 periods of maternity leave, or so I thought. I guess it is a long time to be away which is why I accepted there would be changes.

Bakingnovice Mon 19-Aug-13 12:58:41

K8 is right. This is exactly what happened to me. Went back to find my hand picked replacement had effectively taken my job and I was doing the work of an assistant. It was hard enough going back to work after baby and it took me ages to try and sort it. You need to email hr and me ruin the kind of phrases which will make them sweat 'right to return, discrimination, constructive dismissal' etc.

I ended up being bullied so badly by the bitch doing my job I ended up walking out after 18 months with no self confidence and a mini breakdown. I think she knew i was upset and wanted my (her) job back amd felt threatened. It was one of the worst periods of my life. You have the right to return to YOUR job.

AugustMoon Mon 19-Aug-13 13:01:08

My role has changed a lot. He is basically doing my job still so much of the stuff I used to do is now taken care of and I am now, for example having to print out, collate and distribute the report I used to write. I wasn't happy about it but thought, it's early days, it'll come right.

AugustMoon Mon 19-Aug-13 13:02:54

Baking That sounds horrible, hope things are better for you now. Someone has already suggested that they are trying to make things unpleasant for me so that I just leave.

AugustMoon Mon 19-Aug-13 13:04:34

K8 that's just it, I nearly didn't come back and am pretty sure I wouldn't have if I had known, had been informed I would be in this position.

Ablababla Mon 19-Aug-13 13:10:18

After returning from maternity leave you should be found a job of 'equivalent status' to the one you left. For them not to provide this is potentially discrimatory, but of course the issue is never black and white when it comes to defining jobs. Is there someone sensible in HR you can talk too?

saintmerryweather Mon 19-Aug-13 13:27:23

surely 'equivalent status' means pay and hours, not necessarily job role?

K8Middleton Mon 19-Aug-13 13:33:50

No saintmerry. It means exactly what I wrote. The law is there to protect women being disciminated for taking maternity leave. Taking away her status is discrimination. Just paying the same is not enough to get away with shoddy behaviour.

Imagine how you would feel to go back and be treated like you are no longer competent?

RobotHamster Mon 19-Aug-13 13:36:31

This is wrong, you've effectively been demoted.

K8Middleton Mon 19-Aug-13 13:38:48

If the woman returns after a period of ordinary maternity leave, she has the right to return to the job she occupied before her maternity leave. If she has taken additional maternity leave, she has the right to return to her original job unless this is not reasonably practicable, in which case she has the right to be offered suitable alternative employment on terms no less favourable than the terms she enjoyed in her original job.

From here

Boosiehs Mon 19-Aug-13 13:46:41

One thing to watch for is the time taken a ordinary maternity leave.

I agree that you have the right to return to an equal job if you go back in a year.

It may be that working for two years the mat cover might have proven to be indispensable and they want to keep him.

K8Middleton Mon 19-Aug-13 13:57:14

I don't think there's anything on the statute or in common law that suggest a woman has to return between maternity leaves to ensure protection? Off the top of my head there is some case law related to holiday carry over but that is all I think.

The right to return is the right to return and it doesn't matter how many maternity leaves a woman takes or whether they ran consecutively or not.

I have no sensible advice, just wanted to say how sorry I am for how you are being treated, especially after your first baby was stillborn. Sending you lots of sympathy through the interwebs and hoping work starts to behave soon.

AugustMoon Mon 19-Aug-13 14:10:17

Thank you everyone, this is all very helpful. Thank you blowfish

edam Mon 19-Aug-13 14:16:03

August, this is shocking - are you in a union? (They aren't just for specific sectors or jobs grades and come in very handy if you ever have a dispute.) If not, suggest you contact ACAS who can give you expert advice about the law and how to proceed. Good luck!

Bakingnovice Mon 19-Aug-13 14:17:08

August like you I kept thinking things would settle down. I kept being told I was being paranoid and to enjoy the same pay for the demoted work. Hr just said 'you're on a good salary, and wouldn't you rather not have the stress of all that work?!' Everyone including hr, my replacement, my line manager made things really unpleasant. The demotion made me feel shit and bored.

My replacement made me feel like I was threatening her role in the team when all I wanted was my work back. It got to a stage where she decided she needed to check all my letters before they were sent out - mending 12 years qualified! Still it was all done under the guise of 'we are all helping you to settle back in'. Do not take it. Get things in writing. Speak to a lawyer. Get your info correct.

In retrospect its the best thing that happened to me. I walked out, handed my notice in, stayed home for 2 years putting myself back together and in sept I'm off to Uni to career change! Sorry to go on about my situation. There was a v famous case last year where a woman won her case at the tribunal under similar circumstances. She was outed by her replacement. Look into it and store it for use further down the line.

PurplePidjin Mon 19-Aug-13 14:17:18

Are you officially his assistant or is he just a patronising tosser throwing his weight around? Just because he says you're his assistant doesn't mean you really are, get this queried - go in all passive aggressive innocent to his line manager "Mr X seems to have got confused, he thinks I'm an assistant <tinkly laugh> perhaps you could have a quiet word, i wouldn't like to embarass him"

K8Middleton Mon 19-Aug-13 14:33:07

Don't start chucking money at lawyers yet. Start by finding out the facts, then proceeds via the internal grievance process and then if no joy think about speaking to an employment lawyer.

AugustMoon Mon 19-Aug-13 14:43:28

Edam, no not in a union... Not sure if there is one for this sector.
I have no issue with the fact my cover was promoted, he clearly does a good job and if he has proven himself then of course he deserves a promotion. It wasnt advertised afaik and, probably worth noting, he hasnt been promoted to the equivalent role/status as my previous line mgr. The issue I have is that I left an assistant manager and have returned to a role as his assistant. I was never referred to as anyone's assistant before, it feels demeaning. He is 5 years younger than me too ffs!

AugustMoon Mon 19-Aug-13 14:46:03

Pidj, I did think that, maybe he's just got cocky and is mistaken - but i'm embarrassed to say anything in case it's true I would be mortified to have it reiterated in front of people

badguider Mon 19-Aug-13 14:48:15

So he's said you are his assistant but are you SURE you are HIS assistant rather than assistant to his role. e.g. there's a big difference between being assistant manager and being the manager's assistant.

I would go straight to HIS boss and ask for a full job description for your new role. And not make any judgements till you have that.

HorizontalRunningOnly Mon 19-Aug-13 14:53:54

The key is terms no less favourable. Do hours, pay, holidays, benefits etc. they haven't to my mind done anything out of place maybe when u have been back a while ask about getting some one old work load ie the report u mentioned back? And build back the portfolio. It's not unreasonable that they have promoted the other person and re ordered som of the work in afraid.

AugustMoon Mon 19-Aug-13 15:15:19

Badguider exactly, I was/am assistant manager and he has written an email referring to me as his assistant. I will ask for a job description, thanks

Bakingnovice Mon 19-Aug-13 15:36:35

Print off the email for future reference. Also remember that if things do go downhill then there is a time limit for any constructive dismissal arguments. Get a copy of your old job description too. Make a note of the tasks you do now so you can compare. Ask for job description and make sure it matches the original one, and the jobs you currently do. Most of all be proactive. I felt I really let myself down in that respect as I didn't fight enough, and was patronised into a corner just because I'd had a baby.

PurplePidjin Mon 19-Aug-13 17:45:58

People? I'd do it in confidence 1:1. You'd need your brass balls on though, even if you sneak off to the loo and cry afterwards!

And make sure you keep a record of everything

Tasmania Tue 20-Aug-13 02:16:27

Sorry, but what exactly is wrong here? He just referred to you as his "assistant". It does not mean you are his PA (personal assistant)! If he is a 'manager' and you are the 'assistant manager', then yes, you are 'second in line to the throne', and your job is to assist the manager make day-to-day decisions (including responding to requests he would otherwise get asked) while he/she deals with higher level ones.

A personal assistant would normally deal with time-keeping, answering calls, booking transport/hotels, taking minutes - I am not sure what you expect?

I believe the fact that he includes you in the email is encouraging, considering there would be plenty of people out there who would stop including you in any emails, and sort of slowly 'oust you out' by not giving you any work at all...

Two years is a long time to be away. I have moved up several levels in my company over the course of two years, and expect to do so in future. You could not have expected the guy to stay in the same position for two years - or even be demoted once you returned.

For what it's worth - a few colleagues have only recently returned from maternity leave (less than a year). In one case, the maternity cover moved up a level on her return (both reporting to the same person, but the maternity cover is now permanent staff and more senior). In another case, her whole team has changed (including her manager), and she pretty much knew none of her team members when she got back...

NapaCab Tue 20-Aug-13 02:49:38

Don't be embarrassed to say anything, Moon. Don't let someone talk down to you like that or he'll just walk all over you and you'll be the one out of a job or hating every minute of a menial boring job.

Be assertive with him and make it clear that unless you have information in writing on your role change, your title remains 'assistant x manager'.

Saying 'my assistant' implies you are his secretary especially as he is a man and you're a woman. PP's suggestion of going over his head to say 'oh Maternity Cover Guy seems to be mistaken and is referring to me as his assistant - obviously my status hasn't changed since I was on mat leave or anything, has it? You would have sent me a letter or something if it had of of course!' and so on. Nip it in the bud anyway or this cocky little so and so will have you making his coffee soon!

I wouldn't call anyone who worked for me "my assistant" unless they were. That's patronising and rude. He's clearly a piss taker.

Get a job description and get job hunting.

twirliedobbit Tue 20-Aug-13 03:19:41

Please don't take this. I made that mistake and ended up very sorry just wish I had the guts to do something about it. Went back in a more junior role cause things had moved around and my role 'didn't exist' any longer. Found out that the temp I thought they had got in was actually permenant and was doing my role!
Grrrrr get it sorted soon as. The innocent (passive aggressive) card is a perfect one in this scenario.

Tasmania Tue 20-Aug-13 03:34:26

Replace 'assistant' in 'assistant manager' with 'deputy' (i.e. deputy manager).

Would people be outraged by being called a 'deputy'? Are people not taking titles just a little too much to heart?

Let's not pretend we dont know what assistant really means. My boss doesn't call me his assistant - that would imply that I help out. Deputy has a different meaning.

Tasmania Tue 20-Aug-13 14:27:39

So why call an 'assistant manager' such, if there's no 'assisting' involved at all?!? Wouldn't you then just be a 'manager'? For what it's worth... if people get crossed being an 'assistant' manager, maybe they should change the title to Associate or something...

edam Tue 20-Aug-13 16:14:11

Tas - I think 99% of people understand that an assistant manager /deputy manager is a grade. While 'my assistant' or 'my PA' is a support/admin role. They are two different things.

edam Tue 20-Aug-13 16:15:42

Tas - think of the difference between 'deputy head' and 'headteacher's assistant'. I think everyone would grasp that the deputy head is a teacher one down in seniority terms from the head, while the head's assistant is a secretary.

titchy Tue 20-Aug-13 16:28:57

I think you need clarification from HR or whoever before going off on one tbh.

As you have returned on the same salary etc and have had no notification of any change to job description or job title it is quite reasonable to assume you remain the assistant manager.

It could be that he is a wanker throwing his weight about, or equally he could have just worded the email badly, and may well be mortified to find out you interpreted that sentence in such a way.

TBH he could well have meant 'My assistant manager' when he typed the email so don't go off at the deep end.

Don't let this blow over. I wouldn't be surprised if he's threatened by your return so he's trying to play mindgames and attempting to assert himself by putting you down.

Reconfirm your job title and don't take this lying down.

My career still hasn't recovered from being slowly squeezed out after my return. I wish I'd been more assertive but I was tired and lacked confidence.

Tas, you don't shorten assistant manager to assistant. That's not what is happening here anyway.

TheDoctrineOfJetlag Tue 20-Aug-13 21:10:18

Op, you don't have to ask in front of anyone - print out the email and take it with you to a one to one meeting with HR or the person who was previously your line manager so you can refer to it if they ask why you want your job description clarified.

It could be bad communication between management and this guy, it could be clumsy wording, it could be deliberate. Asking for clarification is fine.

OP has said she is fine for this person to have been promoted, Tas.

samuraispider Tue 27-Aug-13 22:07:00

Just my two penneth...

If someone said my Assistant I would think they meant their PA or EA.

He should be saying... speak to the Assistant Manager...

A CEO wouldn't call the Operations Director 'my Operations Director' because he would sound like a twat.

Stand your ground. He's trying to assert his authority to see what he can get away with.

BranchingOut Sun 01-Sep-13 08:36:43

Can you get away with sending around an email to everyone, just saying 'I am now back from mat leave, resuming my role as Assistant Manager with responsibility for X, Y and Z. Looking forward to working with you all.'?

wearingatinhat Mon 02-Sep-13 20:05:26

As an HR professional, I would say that this is very risky territory for your Company.

At very least, I would expect someone from senior management to have explained the situation to you and to have confirmed that there is no loss of status etc, issued a new job description or to have confirmed that your job has remained unchanged.

Factors to consider:

How large is your Company? Do they have a professional HR Department?
What sort of communication did you agree to when you went off on maternity leave? How much contact have they had with you? When you went on maternity leave, what was put in writing about your return? What sort of correspondence has there been since and what did they put in writing when they confirmed your return. The larger the Company, then the higher the expectation and onus on them to act professionally and have sophisticated policies and procedures in place.

Status is an important part of terms and conditions being 'no less favourable'. By that, if your new boss is now attending meetings that you previously attended as a Manager then that is a demotion. Your job cannot be materially of a lower status. It would all hinge on how your current job description and whether that has materially changed due to the changed reporting structure. An example might be if you managed a team, held budgets, were responsible for achieving certain business objectives, were involved in monthly reporting and as such, attended senior management meetings as a member of the senior management team. If your boss now has all these responsibilities then that 'could' constitute a demotion and constructive dismissal. If you were able to argue that you have been treated less favourably because of your sex and the taking of maternity leave, then there is no limit on the compensation that you could be entitled to. I must say though, that this is a highly complex area of law (proving constructive dismissal and sex discrimination) and I would urge you, if you are thinking of going down this route to get a good Solicitor who specialises in this area.

However, I would add that this sort of situation is quite common, in my experience, with many of my friends being 'made redundant' during maternity leave.

You seem to be taking it well- best of luck!

ChasedByBees Mon 02-Sep-13 20:28:14

You've got some really good advice here OP and I don't think I can add anything except I hope you fight them on this!

strawberryfool Wed 25-Sep-13 22:36:21

Just browsing this post - bit late now maybe but I'm sure there is some sort of rule at my work about being made aware of all vacancies whether you are on leave or not. This gives everyone a chance to apply for the job - I think you should have at least been made aware of this post coming up.
Hope it's working out!

Bambamb Fri 27-Sep-13 10:42:43

That's exactly what I was going to say. If he was given a promotion you should have been given the opportunity to apply for it too.

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