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To feel my employer are suddenly discriminating because I have a young child?

(476 Posts)
Tayo23 Thu 21-May-20 23:18:14

I work for a government dpt where it is not usually commonplace to be able to work from home. On 19th/20th March when the schools closed, I was asked in work if this would impact me in regards to childcare - it does, and I was offered a laptop to work from home which I gratefully took.

At this point all my colleagues (except for a minority shielding or in similar positions) remained in the office every day as there were a lack of laptops for them - it was BAU. I worked remotely from home, with colleagues in the office uploading my (and other remote workers) work. A week later my office closed (a non-critical govt dpt) however I have continued to work from home since then although my colleagues without laptops were not working at all. My partner was furloughed a week or so after my office closed so has been a great help keeping 4yo entertained.

At the end of April my office advised those without laptops must return to the office one day a week on a rota basis to upload, (to maintain social distancing). I was not asked because it was understood I was working from home. Last week they provided everyone in my office (around 80 people) with laptops. I have now been told that because everyone else now has a laptop, I am now too required to work one day a week in the office, and spend the rest of the week working from home.

My partner returns to work next week. I now am in same position as end of March before lockdown re childcare. They are allowing me to take special leave for the one day a week I can’t come into the office, for 4 weeks. After then I have to use annual leave. I have repeatedly stressed I am willing to continue working each day from home. I just simply cannot leave my child at home alone. My partner is unable to get paid leave off and we would struggle without his pay.

AIBU to feel this way, they understood initially and accommodated me which I was extremely grateful for. I have worked each day whilst my colleagues barely have done until now, but now they too have the facilities to work from home, the goalposts have been moved.

I am not happy being told when to take AL when I have not asked for any time off. Do I have a leg to stand on here if I take this higher than my own line manager (who robotically regurgitates things without much compassion or consideration for people’s individual circumstances)

sst1234 Thu 21-May-20 23:28:50

Doesn’t sound like anyone is discriminating against you, just that WFH days have been reduced. Looks like you were given preferential treatment to begin with and now everyone is on equal footing and you would prefer that you kept receiving preferential treatment. Can your partner work from home on the one day you can’t.

Charlieandthechocolatecake Thu 21-May-20 23:29:02

Are you a civil servant? Can you request special leave (paid) for that one day a week?

BackforGood Thu 21-May-20 23:30:00

They aren't discriminating against you at all.
They are treating everyone the same.
that does sound fair and reasonable to me.
The thing with all these type of questions is that none of us really know how anyone else's work 'works'. Whether the colleague in the office 'uploading' this work is an equivalent amount of work / skill level as the work that can be done on the laptop. In my world, there would be a colleague who would be happy to go in and take the turn at uploading for a person who was genuinely doing equivalent work at home, so everyone is happy, but this does depend on things like everyone being confident that those who don't want to go in, a) have a good reason for it, and b) are pulling their weight, and always do.

I'm not a lawyer and don't work in HR, but I don't think it is unreasonable, after the way you have been looked after so far, for them to give you notice that you will have to go in to your office 1 day a week.
Nurseries are opening again, and you have the choice to use them, or to choose not to. If you choose not to, (and I wouldn't blame you) then you will need to start using some AL days.
After all, none of us are going anywhere this Summer, so it's not like we need to keep them for anything.

TARSCOUT Thu 21-May-20 23:32:22

No discrimination although it feels unfair.

Justajot Thu 21-May-20 23:33:21

This sounds pretty harsh to me. You've worked while your colleagues haven't. You have proven that you can wfh effectively. It seems odd that they are so insistent that you can't work that 5th day from home.

anotherwayout Thu 21-May-20 23:35:31

I think it sounds like they've been pretty accommodating.

What will you be doing for childcare when your partner returns to work next week and they can't look after your child while you're working?

DifficultPifcultLemonDifficult Thu 21-May-20 23:39:37

They bent over backwards for you initially. They are now treating you exactly the same as everyone else. It's not discrimination.

AllsortsofAwkward Thu 21-May-20 23:43:04

Can you're dd go to nursery

arethereanyleftatall Thu 21-May-20 23:43:16

If they're treating you the same as everyone else, that's exactly what discrimination isn't.

Tohaveandtohold Thu 21-May-20 23:44:39

I think they’ve been so accommodating and I can’t see any form of discrimination here. The fact that the other colleagues don’t have children does not mean that they don’t have one reason or another why they’ll prefer not to come in one day a week.
They are now being fair to everyone and if you can’t go in after 4 weeks when the special leave is over and you don’t want to use your annual leave then you can take unpaid leave or find childcare for that day.

rosiejaune Thu 21-May-20 23:45:04

Treating everyone the same is not the same thing as treating everyone equally, and can therefore be discrimination when some people need reasonable adjustments due to protected characteristics. As in this case (indirect sex discrimination).

It clearly is a reasonable adjustment in the circumstances, and you obviously are capable of working from home effectively. I would either go to the next manager up, HR, or find a colleague who is willing to do "your" day in the office for you.

Iwannatellyouastory Thu 21-May-20 23:48:45

It’s not discrimination, it sounds like your employer, like a lot of others, had an initial plan to cover a short lockdown but has now made plans to cover the work over a longer lockdown period. They have invested in laptops for all staff and are insisting that all staff work one day per week in the office to make it fair on everyone. No doubt you will have coworkers who also have childcare responsibilities, some who would have to use public transport and other reasons that they feel that they wouldn’t want to come into the office one day a week for, so unless someone is shielding, the fairest way is for everyone to take their turn.
It could have been a lot worse you weren’t having to look after your child and try and work at the same time for all these weeks. It also wasn’t your colleagues fault that there weren’t enough laptops for them to be able to be working from home previously.

Patch23042 Thu 21-May-20 23:51:04

You’re a key worker as a civil servant? So what about nursery?

georgialondon Fri 22-May-20 00:01:07

I'm a civil servant. Not all civil servants are classed as key workers. Only those working directly on the Covid response are.

BBCONEANDTWO Fri 22-May-20 00:04:46

Can't you take annual leave? That's what it's for surely?

Flamingofolie Fri 22-May-20 00:09:26

This is clearly not discrimination from what you're describing.

LonginesPrime Fri 22-May-20 00:21:56

You’re a key worker as a civil servant? So what about nursery?

OP says she's in a non-essential department that was closed down at one point, so not a key worker.

mrsbyers Fri 22-May-20 00:22:49


That simply isn’t true , the whole of HMRC for example are classed as key workers even if their role is no. Covid 19 linked

mrsbyers Fri 22-May-20 00:23:46

Employers can make you take annual leave at any time providing they give the right notice which is double the length of time off

Tayo23 Fri 22-May-20 00:25:02

“Treating everyone the same is not the same thing as treating everyone equally, and can therefore be discrimination when some people need reasonable adjustments due to protected characteristics. As in this case (indirect sex discrimination).” This is what I feel. It may be the same for everyone now, but not everyone is the same.

I went into the office last week before my partner returned to work. It is half an hours worth of basic copying and pasting the remote workers work onto a system, spread out over the full day. It was quite lovely to be honest in comparison to what I’ve been doing with a 4yo in tow! Working at home requires the same usual pressured targets, without the usual support. I have worked extremely hard relentlessly every day all day for weeks, whilst my colleagues have all been off except their one chilled day in the office. Several of them have already told me how much harder this was than they knew! No it is of course not their fault at all. I do not begrudge my colleagues this time, I was extremely and still am grateful that the office had accommodated me. I just find it unfair that after working every day when the majority weren’t for so long, they have suddenly stopped being understanding - my situation and the larger situation remains the same currently.

My sons nursery is not open. And although I am a civil servant I am not classed as a key worker even if it were. Obviously when this changes I am more than happy to go in. This isn’t a case of me wanting preferential treatment, it’s a case of having no other choice. DP cannot work from home. He was furloughed for this reason.

As for how I will manage working with my 4yo on my own, that remains to be seen! grin

PotteryLady Fri 22-May-20 00:30:47

Could your partner take annual leave for that 1 day and you take it in turns.

BernadetteRostankowskiWolowitz Fri 22-May-20 00:34:52

If you are only going into the building to upload work and there will be minimal people there, can't you take ds? Bring a tablet or whatever toy will keep him occupied.

Upload everything then leave.

Iwannatellyouastory Fri 22-May-20 00:35:22

Do you have someone friend or family member who can look after your child for the one day per week? It’s what most people are having to do, even if it is frowned upon at the moment. Otherwise you will have to take annual leave if you have no other options.

BernadetteRostankowskiWolowitz Fri 22-May-20 00:37:35

Who is covering your day in the office to upload work when you have taken leave?

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