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Employer avoiding contact over promotion queries (amongst others) during mat leave

(9 Posts)
random158 Thu 13-Oct-11 12:47:23

Hi,
Just looking for some reassurance/advice. Hopefully I am being over sensitive because I haven't been at work for so long, but I am worried that my previously excellent relationship with my employer may be waining since I began maternity leave (and was off sick prior due to pregnancy related).
My situation:
I am currently on maternity leave and have found out via social networking that a colleague with whom I was on the same level has been promoted. As I was performing at the top of my level at my last performance appraisal before leaving, and had pro-actively been seeking opportunities to progress to the next level up, I contacted my manager and HR to ask if I had been considered for this role. The curt response I received was that I have missed no opportunity as there were no positions advertised. I replied to ask for confirmation that my colleague was promoted, to which they said they would phone me to discuss. After being stood up for two arranged phone appointments to discuss because they were "snowed under", they are now apparently too busy to get back to me in the next few days and will be in contact soon, whatever that means. They avoid replying by email. They are also delaying response to a query I have regarding whether I will still be emtitled to my holiday pay for the year - as I was on pregnancy related sick leave prior to maternity I didn't get to use my holiday allowance and they operate a use it or lose it policy at the year end.
I was doing really well at work prior to pregnancy and was looking forward to going back and progressing my career. More so now that I have a child to support and set an example to. I feel that the good relationship I had with my employer is being damaged by their dismissal of my contact whilst on maternity. I am really upset and it's knocked the shine off the thought of returning. Any idea where I stand regards the promotion opportunity, holiday entitlement and general poor treatment in responding to my queries? Am I being over sensitive to feel upset about this or might I have a genuine concern? Thoughts? Advice?
with thanks.

StillSquiffy Thu 13-Oct-11 13:39:30

No, you are not being oversensitive.

IT would not surprise me if they are having a flap behind the scenes and getting legal advice OR have now received legal advice and are wondering how they can 'fix' the fact they didn't consider you from promotion. They could find a number of ways of wriggling out of it, but it would depend entirely on the exact circs.

They may have been curt with you initially because they may have been wary about your motives - your emails about employment pay and then about promotion may have had them thinking you are more keen on getting them over a barrel than on getting back to work. (Not saying that you have done anythign wrong or that you shouldn't be dong any of this, mind, I am merely speculating on why they are being like this)

Anyways, there may be loads of reasons for this, but what is clear is that they are NOT acting in the most welcoming manner and it is no wonder oyu are concerned.

If they continue to ignore you you could consider threatening them with a grievance claim, but I personally wouldn't advise that. If it were me I'd write them an email stressing that you have been lookign forward to resuming your career and have found their radio silence quite concerning, but that you are very keen to clarify your points as soon as possible so that you can begin to plan for picking your career up again when you return from ML.

And if they ignore that kind of approach then I'd send them the no holds-barred grievance threat (actually, no, I would raise a grievance, considering that HR themselves are not treating you as well as they should here) I'd complain that you have made numerous attempts to stay in touch and that you feel you have been looked over for promotions simply because you were on maternity leave, and you are concerned that they seem to be ignoring your valid concerns regarding this and regarding their refusal to confirm aspects of your holiday entitlement.

Try not to get too concerned in the meantime - it's not about you. This kind of stuff happens quite often, usually through sheer ignorance (and rarely with any ill-intent). I have yet to meet a mum who had a seamless transition back to work after ML. There is alwasy too much/too little contact, too many/too few work demands and so on. Sometimes the legislation to protect us all actually causes the problems it tries to address. At the heart of it, you are still the professional you once were, you are just readjusting your relationship with the firm. I hope they pull their fingers out and start treating you like a human soon.

A different question is whether or not they CAN treat you like this with regard to promotion and the answer is quite often, yes, depending on the circs. But that's usually by the by, the key thing is trying to get the relationship fixed first, and then worry about the legailities etc if that fails to happen.

random158 Thu 13-Oct-11 14:15:44

Yeah, a lot of what you say makes sense.
The last email I sent to the manager said I was disappointed she hadn't kept our phone appointment and although I appreciated they were busy it was her suggestion and she did say she'd book it in her calendar this time. I stressed that I was looking forward to returning but I felt her failure to keep an appointment again was taking the shine off the excitement and sending a message that they have no time for me, which is not encouraging for me at a time when I am busy putting plans in place to return. She curtly replied again to the effect 'so sorry, was snowed under again. Rest assured that you are important to us. I am off now for a few days so unable to call. We'll be in touch soon'.
I then emailed HR, who are aware of the string of communication to date, to ask if they could respond to my queries in the absence of the manager, or if not to point me to someone who could. No reply and that was 3 days ago.
I am holding off contacting them again as want to retain good relations (I love my job) and don't want to seem harrassing. I could really use the information though as the holiday pay (or lack of) will affect my decision on when to go back (they know this).
The promotion thing is a weird one. My impression is that I was performing at a higher level than the person they promoted, at our last appraisal. Their promotion policy is unclear, they have advertised in the past but have also just promoted people seemingly out of the blue. I would be querying the promotion though if I were at work and not on maternity as I believe I am performing on par, if not ahead of the person who go it. So it's not because I am on mat leave that I am chasing them to see if I was considered; I'd be wanting to know this anyway.
I'm not looking to cause trouble or get them over a barrel, although I see what you're saying. They might think I am. I genuinely want to know why I missed the promotion (feedback on where I lacked would be valuable for me to get back on track), as I would be asking were I there. Although as my husband did point out - would we be asking this if you were there? Because if your performance continued as it was then surely you'd have been the person promoted. It's a tough one and seems very woolly.
I would argue that they are treating me differently since I am not actually at work. Normally they would address queries like this asap and not leave employees stewing at their desk!
I am aware I may have to resolve via greviance and am prepared to fight my corner but would rather resolve amicably without going that far. Besides, I have no access to our policies so would have to email HR for copies. Seeing as she has gone quiet on me too then I am thinking 'blood from stone' lol. Oh dear!!

random158 Thu 13-Oct-11 14:43:33

forgot to say - regards the queries I have with them - I had already asked about holiday pay and was waiting an answer when I found out about the promotion. So it was unfortunate that my follow up query about holidays also queried promotions. Hopefully they would still deal with this as two unrelated enquiries though.

PopcornMouse Thu 13-Oct-11 15:44:12

It's easy to ignore emails - have you phoned the HR department?

GrendelsMum Thu 13-Oct-11 16:49:37

thinking it over from the business's point of view, are they worried you're going to leave shortly after returning to work? Or was there an urgent need to have a more senior person right away, before youre due to return? I'm not saying that they haven't screwed up by not considering you for promotion, but that if youre the better candidate, you would think there're also doing themselves a disservice by not promoting you. I wonder whether there's a specific fear about women with children that realistically you might need to identify and address in order to get this kind of backdoor promotion in the future.

random158 Thu 20-Oct-11 12:12:11

The manager finally phoned this week. Confirmed that there was a promotion but then went on to say that I was unable to be considered due to the "clear business need" for a senior person to be doing one of the tasks that the promoted employee has been doing for the past 3 years (on my level). Because I had not been doing the task on this particular project then I don't have the background knowledge to be considered as it is a bespoke position (that was the term used) that only the person promoted can do. So I queried their promotion policy but couldn't get a clear answer other than 'all team members are considered'. I have queried the job description for this bespoke position as I believe it to be a load of rubbish. It will be the first time they have ever given out specific jobs tied to projects (our projects can chop and change at a moments notice and they swap us around at a whim so the reason the person got the promotion being the project they were currently assigned to seems a flimsy reason to me) as we are supposed to be able to adapt to work on any project as the business need requires. Anyway, I remain unconvinced. There is also past precedent where they have moved people projects in order to promote, and given research time for them to get up to speed and have the background knowledge. They refused to comment on how performance is considered in respect of promotion and couldn't discuss if the promoted person did better than myself.
Anyway, I am more confused on their promotions policy so have requested a copy of that along with equal opps and greivance procedure from HR. They ignored my email (for 3 days now) and I had emailed the woman who I was in touch with (and had already ignored emails) and her boss. No response. I have now gone back to my line manager and requested these documents - they are readily available to all employees so it is literally a 2 minute job to email over the pdf's. Again no response. My emails are getting through as I have had delivery receipts. I'm planning to leave it now until next week as I don't want to seem harrassing (!) - I have asked three people for copies of the policies (that we all should have free access to) and not one has even replied to say that they will sort it. Feeling very pushed out now and it is also making me a bit paranoid (probably overthinking things) that they are trying to cover up discrimination (if they are not discriminating anyway by treating me less favourable due to their ignorance). Humpf :-(

StillSquiffy Fri 21-Oct-11 17:08:27

If I were in your position I would be really livid and would also be pursuing it. I've worked in consultancy which is all project-based, so I get completely what is going on here.

Keep a note of all the dates/times you have tried to request things and when/if you received responses. If you don't hear anything by say Tuesday, I would consider writing a formal notice to the head of HR stating that you have a grievance to raise and that your attempts to receive the formal company policy for instigating grievances have been thwarted, and that you will have no choice but to instruct a solicitor to act on your behalf if you do not hear anything by 28th October. I'm not convinced this is the best course of action necessarily, but I'm not sure that pussy-footing around will get you far with the people you have been dealing with....

flowery Fri 21-Oct-11 19:19:47

I wouldn't threaten to instruct a solicitor before even having raised a grievance unless you fully intend to do so.

Sounds like they have messed up and are frantically trying to work out what to do about it, and not handling things well in the meantime.

Raise a grievance without the procedure, and include in the grievance the fact that you have not been given access to the relevant procedures you have requested.

Also think about what you want them to actually do. Obviously hear your grievance and take your concerns seriously but what action do you want them to take? An apology and reassurance it won't happen again? Or more? You don't necessarily need to put the outcome you want in the grievance, in fact it would probably be better not to, to keep your options open. But I think you need to give it consideration in your own mind.

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