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SME firm - passing over employees for promotion when pregnant

(15 Posts)
Custardmiteofglut Fri 05-Feb-16 14:25:19

I know this is illegal, but I'm not sure how to approach this and would value some advice/courage.

I work for a small firm. There's less than 20 of us, and over 60% of us are women under 35. The company owner employs a family member who is in charge of our HR and some ex-colleagues/close friends who are part of the senior leadership team.

I returned from maternity leave last year. My position in the company hasn't changed and I have not been promoted, despite exceeding my job description. I did ask for a promotion in my review prior to maternity leave, but was told I needed to go on a management course first, which would take place after I had had the baby.

In a 'back to work' meeting last year the owner agreed that I do the work of someone a rank or more above me; however she did not want to promote me yet as she didn't want to upset some of the junior members of the team. I have been here for 2.5 years.

In my absence the company has grown. Two senior hires have been made, several ranks above my own. Both have a similar level of experience to me and both have been promoted in the year and 4 months they have been with the company.

A junior member of the team has announced she is pregnant. It is a surprise to the whole team. She has been told directly that due to her pregnancy she will not be promoted, when some weeks prior to this it had been indicated that she would be promoted. I know that this is illegal.

I can't help thinking that a pattern of behaviour exists that is illegal and spiteful. I am actively looking for a new job, but I really feel for my junior colleague who is now a hostage in the job, because she needs the money.

Is there anything I can do, either for me or my colleague?

flowery Fri 05-Feb-16 15:15:38

I'm a bit confused about your situation. You came back at the same level as when you went on maternity leave, just as you were entitled to do. People several ranks above you (and therefore presumably not taking promotion opportunities away from you) have been promoted.

Has there actually been a vacancy for a role the next level or two up from you which you could have applied for but were not given the opportunity to do so? Is there anyone at your level who has been promoted into a position you would have wanted to be considered for?

If your colleague has indeed been told that because she is pregnant she will not be promoted when previously told she was being promoted, then yes she is not being treated fairly and should address it.

I have to say your case doesn't seem nearly that clear though. It's not clear which promotion you missed out on because of pregnancy?

Custardmiteofglut Fri 05-Feb-16 15:25:47

Thanks Flowery. Whilst I was on maternity leave the company advertised for roles that were at my level or below. Two people the company hired were hired at a more senior level and were then promoted again.

I'm frustrated and believe that had I not gone on maternity leave I would have been promoted. I can see the same thing happening to my colleague, but far more obviously.

Fizrim Fri 05-Feb-16 15:30:24

I don't think the example you have given (about your own role) supports your theory as the job advert was at the same grade or lower than your own. If they then started at a higher grade that implies that the new staff members had exceeded the job spec/requirements.

Fizrim Fri 05-Feb-16 15:31:01

It seems like a lot of promotions in a small firm!

Stillunexpected Fri 05-Feb-16 15:36:21

I wondered about that! Lots of chiefs, not many indians left!

Custardmiteofglut Fri 05-Feb-16 15:43:04

I agree Frizim, but none of them have come my way!

And I think that is part of the issue. Had the expectation for swift promotion not been integral to the nature of the business, then perhaps I wouldn't feel quite so frustrated.

The company is still new, less than five years old. Without exception, everyone in the company has received a promotion, some more than one, whilst I have not progressed. The only thing that differentiates me is that I have gone on maternity leave.

The company I came back to is not the company I left and I feel that I was effectively forgotten and demoted while I was away.

Custardmiteofglut Fri 05-Feb-16 15:44:56

There's a lot of junior members of staff in their first role after university, so not so many chiefs.

In the comms world there's a lot of ranks to climb, hence the number of promotions.

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeG0es Fri 05-Feb-16 16:19:33

Have you been on the management course? Or is it planned? Has that been a condition of promotion for the others?

Do they have criteria for promotion? I was in a job once where I really felt I was being left behind for promotion but it turned out others who were being promoted were in fact taking on more responsibilities, just exceeding expectations on your own grade was enough for a payrise but not a promotion.

flowery Fri 05-Feb-16 19:18:24

How long have you been back from maternity leave? Have you addressed your concerns with your manager yet?

Custardmiteofglut Fri 05-Feb-16 19:23:02

Yes training course completed whilst on Mat leave on a KIT day. It has been recommended as part of other colleague's training. I'm not party to whether it is linked to their promotion.

Promotion and pay rises are not linked. This is set out in our contract. Salary review is annual. But promotion is at the whim of the owner and not always time related. I've also not had a pay rise, but oddly I'm not as precious about that.

We have job descriptions across all ranks. I believe I meet mine and those of the position above me.

Custardmiteofglut Fri 05-Feb-16 19:26:18

X-post with you Flowery.

I've been back three months. I've spoken to my senior manager about it. She was non-committal, as the decision to promote is not hers to make.

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeG0es Fri 05-Feb-16 22:16:16

I really don't know what the answer is here, you are going to be extremely hard-pressed to prove any of this, it would help if you had a decent set of SMART objectives to measure yourself against, as opposed to just a job description. It seems an unusual set-up to have less than 20 employees and promote practically all of them in a very short period, surely they can't all be taking on lots of new responsibilities or who would do the work they leave behind.

Stillunexpected Sat 06-Feb-16 12:15:46

I'm still intrigued by all the levels of seniority in a company of less than 20 people. You talk about people being hired several ranks above you. How many levels of management can you fit into one small company?!

flowery Sat 06-Feb-16 18:39:03

Well if you've spoken to your manager and she wasn't helpful, you need to speak directly to the decision maker, and establish what criteria you need to fill to be promoted when the next opportunity comes up, and express your concerns that everyone else has been promoted and you haven't and you'd like to explore the reasons why.

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