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1st baby, 1st job in hospitality - please help

(31 Posts)
Mrsmkat Thu 24-Jan-13 21:56:12

Hello mumsnetters, I hope you can help me. This is my first post on here so I apologise in advance for not following any required MN etiquette.

I am a chartered accountant who career changed last year. I spent a year full time at culinary school in 2012 and finished my qualification at the end of the year. I have just started (about 2 weeks ago) a new job as a pastry chef. I am also approx 14 weeks pregnant.

As this is my first baby and my first job in a food career I just have a couple of queries.

My new employer is great, I took the job as I like the work (good commute, cuisine I like and freedom for me to run the pastry section as I see fit) but it's a small team (3 chefs and it's very hands on). I went for an unpaid trial (standard) and they offered me the job on the spot. I was 11 weeks pregnant then. I was meant to have my 12 week scan the next week. It then took a little while to agree a start date so I started the job the same week as my 12 week scan (I was actually 13 weeks along by then). The day after I had the 12 week scan I asked to speak to my employer (my 2nd day at work) but he was busy and fobbed me off (he tends to do that quite a bit) and he only spoke to me when I insisted the next day. I told him that I was pregnant and I wanted to declare this up front as being such a small team I needed him to think seriously about how this would / would not work for him and/or his business (baby due July) before we went any further.

His reaction wasn't exactly positive - but he did congratulate me at the end of the working day. I put his awkward reaction down to shock maybe.

Anyway that was about a week ago. I have since worked every single day and clocked up about 60 hours of labour. I asked about paperwork and getting an employment contract set up and he was very casual about it - I asked again middle of last week and he said he would get round to it. I can't help but think he is dragging his feet as he doesn't know what to do about my pregnancy.

I then had another chat with him saying that while I understand we are allowed to eat anything from the kitchen as a lunch meal, I would like to bring in my own food (salads, fruit etc) from time to time as I need to graze during the day ((due to "morning" (which is really "all day")sickness)) and so I might have a quick snack (literally 2 minutes) in between doing one task and the next. I explained this was also because I have gone off quite a lot of food and don't always fancy the daily soup / hot pot / sandwich of the day served where I work.

I also had to mention that I would need to take an actual break at lunch (this is not standard - the other chefs, all male, barely eat, take no breaks other than multiple fag breaks and eat standing up) but I do really need a sit down half way through the day and I had to ask for a chair.

I am not very familiar with the law (not UK born) and have always worked in very corporate ie EXTREMELY compliant, formal enviroments where one would never start work without a signed contract, payroll forms completed, etc etc

It is starting to worry me (the dodging the contract bit), the not knowing my actual rights in this industry and honestly whether I can work these sorts of hours in that envronment while carrying my little one. Sorry to ramble. My questions are:

Is it unreasonable to request a proper break (ie half an hour - SAT DOWN - , actual break) when working a shift that is 7am to 5pm (this is standard) even though no one else seems to take one?

Is it unreasonable to push and insist on a formal employment contract / confirmation? I have already clocked up 60 hours with not even 1 form or paper filled filled - I am worried about making a fuss until they at least pay me (mid Feb pay date) because right now, legally, I think they could actually not pay me if I leave /if we fall out.

How do ante natal appointments work? When I asked the head chef about this he said he would schedule my days off on those days. I read that I am entitled to paid time off for them - is that the same as having my days off as well? That said, I am not sure if my days off are paid or unpaid as I have no contract? Do I have to take those appointment as my days off? That means I will never have a weekend off in the next 6 months as obv there are no ante natal appointments over weekends. A man would never be in that position so is that fair?

Please help any legal eagles / employment or HR experts / hospitality careeer veterans.

Thanks so much. Sorry for the length!

Mrsmkat Tue 05-Feb-13 16:13:52

Thanks ExpatAl and to all the people who have made suggestions about it being a negotiation etc. I have had all my ante natal appointments and doc's visits etc as my day off, I don't sit down in the middle of lunch service or any other obviously pressurised times and I have been managing well so far without making it a drama for either myself or my 2 colleagues. I'll keep trying to do that. So far so good and thanks for all the useful advice.

ExpatAl Fri 01-Feb-13 08:46:47

I can't stand all this talk of it being morally wrong to take a job in a small company when you're pregnant. It's misogynistic rubbish.

Mrsmkat you've picked a tough industry to be pregnant in but I guess you know that. He will probably drag his feet in giving you a contract forever but if you're just looking for experience, continue doing your own thing with sitting down, snacks etc and do it for as long as you can. Good luck.

Mrsmkat Fri 01-Feb-13 07:53:06

Thank you Amanda.

Cn/letmeintroduce- you make baseless judgements with little or no information. What does that show about you?

And FYI i have zero interest in using your career trajectory as a template for mine and it shows how arrogant you are to assume anyone would!

boxoftricks Mon 28-Jan-13 14:51:33

Hi OP, You are legally entitled to a break if your work more than 6 hours, yes. However this is to be given when the employer sees fit. Working in the industry you in, it is unlikely you would be able to get a break during service times, eg lunch/dinner. It would need to be fitted in at down times, or around prep times. I run a gastro pub, and have had pregnant chefs in the past. Chances are your shifts would be able to be arranged around your appointments if you would like. It's a bit different if you can only work 9-5 in an office I guess.
Finding chefs is a pain in the ass. REALLY. So your employer is probably thinking 'brilliant, 6 months and I've got to do this all over again'
You are entitled to a statement of employment within a 6 week period (I think, off the top of my head!)
PESTER for a contract. Have you got a 4 week 'trial period'? This is pretty standard. It means that your job can be terminated with immediate effect by either party throughout that 4 week period if either party feels its not working out. Your employer is then also probably going to be shitting bricks, as if they see that something is not working out, for instance, your work is not up to scratch, and they need to give you notice, then they are probably scared you are going to think they've got rid of you because you're pregnant.
Your employer should also be carrying out risk assessments to see if reasonable adjustments can be made. But if you are not able to carry out your job properly with these in place, then this is something that needs to be discussed.

AmandaCooper Mon 28-Jan-13 14:31:07

So you went out on a limb and offered that information notwithstanding the provisions enacted by statute to protect you from having to do so. You are fortunate to be able to do that. It would not have been deceitful or underhand to do otherwise if your circumstances were different. I can see why OP was upset to have her trustworthiness called into question - particularly as she probably feels uncomfortable about the whole business anyway - but I do take your point about resorting to offensive language.

Letmeintroducemyself Sun 27-Jan-13 18:36:34

any post loses credibility in my eyes when it resorts to offensive language to make its point

and of course I did reveal my own pregnancy to potential employers so practiced what I preached so to speak

AmandaCooper Sun 27-Jan-13 18:26:40

I don't know about that, it was a pretty twattish thing to say.

Letmeintroducemyself Sun 27-Jan-13 15:20:35

Amanda - that's how I first read it.

But then I thought that given how well spoken she is in the rest of her posts should wouldn't be so offensive merely because someone disagrees with her.

If she was - that says even more.

AmandaCooper Sun 27-Jan-13 14:03:05

"And referring to your boss as a twat because he couldn't speak to you for a whole day speaks volumes to me."

I think OP was calling constantnamechanger a twat, not her boss... which may be against Talk Guidelines but is no reflection on her as an employee.

TwitchyTail Sun 27-Jan-13 10:38:27

PS Congratulations on your pregnancy smile

TwitchyTail Sun 27-Jan-13 10:22:08

Mrsmkat, just to say that while you are entitled to paid time off for appointments, I personally tried as far as possible to schedule mine on days off and most women I have worked with do this. I took annual leave rather than sick leave when I felt I needed a rest, even though I would have been entitled to the latter, and moved my maternity leave start date forward when I had pregnancy complications to avoid going off sick. That sort of thing. I am well protected in my job by excellent employment rights, but I didn't want to use up my employer's and work colleagues' goodwill and if you are looking to build a relationship with an employer and a career in an industry that (like many) depends to a large extent on reputation, it's not a bad idea. Most of the routine midwife appointments take 10 minutes, so even with waiting time it's not a huge chunk out of your day. I'd be flexible about this.

Basically maternity issues work out best when you see it as a negotiation between you and your employer, where there is give and take on both sides. I wouldn't waste time thinking about what is fair to men and women as a whole - just focus on what your needs are and try to come to an agreement with your employer that is as fair as possible to you both. For example, I think it's reasonable to request time to sit down during the day and have a proper rest, but I would ask your boss to suggest the best time to take this that would have minimal impact on the job. Entirely reasonable to bring your own food in to snack on it.

Letmeintroducemyself Sun 27-Jan-13 09:45:47

as for asking permission Kat you had already started your family before this firm was your employer.

And referring to your boss as a twat because he couldn't speak to you for a whole day speaks volumes to me.

Letmeintroducemyself Sun 27-Jan-13 09:43:29

I was CN - I have twice been employed while pregnant and birth times I told them at interview - one of the times I chose to delay my start date til post birth and temped - this was after being laid off for being pregnant.

Pregnancy is not a reason not to employ someone.

Nonetheless think it is morally wrong to take a post with a small business without telling them you are pregnant.

TepidCoffee Sun 27-Jan-13 09:20:05

Unfortunately quite a few people have similar opinions to constantnamechanger.

That's why I'm very grateful we have anti-discrimination laws!

Mrsmkat Sat 26-Jan-13 22:56:01

That is the plan TheCountess - thanks very much!

TheCountessOlenska Sat 26-Jan-13 18:29:01

In that industry I should think an undisclosed pregnancy at interview is the least of their worries - undisclosed criminal records more likely if I know chefs!!

If guess if you can stick it out as long as possible and leave on good terms then at least you've gained some experience in a new career - good luck with it all smile

Mrsmkat Sat 26-Jan-13 08:28:55

Hi TheCountess, no I didn't think your comment was harsh - you were being realistic and I posted seeking realistic advice as it's a new environment for me. I feel very clear about the "norm" in professional services /finance etc, but know little about hospitality - so I was genuinely seeking "real talk". I appreciate your response.

I just did not appreciate constantnamechanger's assumption that 1. I was doing something sneaky or underhand by going for an interview before my viability scan and the insinuation that I need to ask for permission to start my family because I work for a small company. Constantnamechanger seem to suggest that my pregnancy will somehow derail someone's whole business which I find irrational given that I have only worked there a week!

TheCountessOlenska Sat 26-Jan-13 07:24:14

I hope my reply wasn't too harsh OP, I just think that this job sounds like a crappy one to be pregnant in! You can (and should) stand up for yourself re. the breaks but I don't think you will get much support from your boss or colleagues - especially because you haven't had a chance to "prove yourself" in the role when not pregnant. Your point about fairness between men and women regarding time off for ante-natal appointments - well, aside from that, as the new girl you would probably have got the worst shifts for the first 6 months anyway - ie. no weekends! I imagine they wouldn't be keen on you scheduling appointments during your shifts as it would leave them one down during service?

I would try another chat with your boss but I honestly think you will struggle with proving yourself in a new job, long hours, on your feet all day, no support from boss/colleagues plus being pregnant for the first time.

Hope all goes ok for you though!

Mrsmkat Fri 25-Jan-13 23:02:53

Thank you to everyone who has replied, I appreciate all the responses.

I think I will ask to get some form of employment confirmation. I don't qualify for SMP etc and I am aware of that, I was more concerned as they have not even taken my bank details yet for end of the month's pay and i would hate to do all these hours for nothing.

Re weekend hours, I was aware of the need to work hours in this industry, I was more questioning the logic in reference to fairness between men and women.

To Consta ntnamechanger - are you suggesting that pregnant women should be unemployed the whole 9 months? I had no idea if my pregnancy was viable ( i had cramping and bleeding at 8 weeks but could not get an NHS scan immediately due to Christmas and New Years) - i told my employer less than 48 hous after I found out my baby was alive. It Would have been 24 if he hadn't fobbed me off when I asked to speak about an urgent matter. You twat!

I am not looking to sue / force the issue - I want experience not a life commitment to this small business. I told him so that he could think about whether the fit would work. If not, we will separate ways. I just want to be able to take a break without him thinking I am skiving. Which is why I offered to bring my own food in (in case my nausea means i nibble on/graze more than the "average" employee, which he may not care to subidise).

Thanks to all for replies.

Mrsmkat Fri 25-Jan-13 22:52:42

Thank you to everyone who has replied, I appreciate all the responses.

I think I will ask to get some form of employment confirmation. I don't qualify for SMP etc and I am aware of that, I was more concerned as they have not even taken my bank details yet for end of the month's pay and i would hate to do all these hours for nothing.

Re weekend hours, I was aware of the need to work hours in this industry, I was more questioning the logic in reference to fairness between men and women.

To Consta ntnamechanger - are you suggesting that pregnant women should be unemployed the whole 9 months? I had no idea if my pregnancy was viable ( i had cramping and bleeding at 8 weeks but could not get an NHS scan immediately due to Christmas and New Years) - i told my employer less than 48 hous after I found out my baby was alive. It Would have been 24 if he hadn't fobbed me off when I asked to speak about an urgent matter. You twat!

I am not looking to sue / force the issue - I want experience not a life commitment to this small business. I told him so that he could think about whether the fit would work. If not, we will separate ways. I just want to be able to take a break without him thinking I am skiving. Which is why I offered to bring my own food in (in case my nausea means i nibble on/graze more than the "average" employee, which he may not care to subidise).

Thanks to all for replies.

DeathMetalMum Fri 25-Jan-13 09:57:10

Having worked in hospitality a lot pre dc the 'contract' issue seem normal. Unless you work for a large chain I have not had a contract as such. There is a high staff turnover, due to the neature and possibly stress of the job (depending on your personality) it was just the norm.

In regards to breaks I would insist on one 20-30 minute 'lunch/dinner' break however at a quiet time. When in the kitchen I used to go out and sit in a quiet part of the restaraunt and eat and have a drink for 20 mins or so. Others in the kitchen didn't do this but waiting on staff did so I didn't feel guilty at all. You are entitled to 20 minutes break after you have worked 4 hours. (I belive this is unpaid.)

freerangelady Fri 25-Jan-13 08:41:30

Yes you should have a contract. Yes, officially you should get a break but like someone up thread says you won't get much respect from colleagues if you fuss about it (I'm not saying don't have breaks, I'm saying don't fuss about it.)

Re antenatal appts, as a you do have a 'right' to time off if you have exhausted all other possibilities. As a small employer myself I would certainly expect you to have days off in the wk and work every wk end. Tough if you don't get a wk end off for 6 months. Did you expect any different when you took a job in catering.

TheCountessOlenska Fri 25-Jan-13 08:32:30

You've certainly picked the worst industry to be pregnant in OP!

DH works in hospitality and still hasn't got a contract - he's been in his current job for nearly a year!

Yes you should get a proper break and a chair - but you won't be looked on with any respect by the other chefs.

As for ante-natal appointments - it wouldn't surprise me if you didn't get a weekend off in six months, this is entirely normal in the industry. DH never has weekends off.

constantnamechanger Fri 25-Jan-13 08:09:03

I don't disagree - but there is a certain irony in saying I decided to be up front.

DreamingOfTheMaldives Fri 25-Jan-13 07:24:19

Because I'm sure her boss would still have given her serious consideration for the position if he'd known she was pregnant! If she'd told him, she would basically have been ensuring she didn't get the job! I can't imagine that a pastry chef will be a difficult position to fill temporarily whilst she is on maternity leave (no offence intended OP)

OP, I think that if you can you should have your appointments on days off. Although you are entitled for paid leave to attend them I think you should only treat this as when necessary rather than an extra. Most people who work M-F would have their appointments at the weekend if they could but it isn't possible so there has to be laws in place to ensure that women can attend appointments and are not financially penalised for it. Your employer shouldn't be penalised for you having to attend appointments if there is a workable solution.

It doesn't surprise me that you haven't got a contract as yet. Keep asking for one but I don't think you need to panic about it. Catering is a very different industry to finance and such things aren't always considered the same priority. I worked in criminal law for years and there were people who had been there for years who didn't have a contract!

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