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Effective demotion on return to work from mat leave

(26 Posts)
CatSi78 Mon 08-Aug-16 22:02:47


I'm looking for some advice please. I am due to return to work a week tomorrow. In April I agreed a flexible working arrangement with my boss (three days a week) and it was said (verbally) that I would return to my old job three days a week. My boss said he would probably need to get a contractor who would report to me to cover any work that needs doing on the days I'm not there. Last week he asked me to call him and told me he is restructuring my department and my role will no longer report to him but to another lady who is my peer. My pay and grade will stay the same but she will take overall responsibility for projects now (previously my responsibility). He claims this is a promotion for her (although she isn't moving up a grade so will continue to be the same as me) and not a demotion for me. As far as I can see he is taking away my responsibilities and reducing my role to a lesser job. He said he doesn't have time to have regular meetings with me to discuss the work that needs to be done when I'm not there and is no longer mentioning a contractor / junior being employed. I wasn't planning to meet with him twice a week as, as far as I understood, I still retain effective control of projects so would manage them myself despite not being there every day. To me this feels like a demotion but if they are leaving my pay and grade the same are they entitled to do this? I also think the timing sucks as he is now on holiday until my return, giving me no time to resolve this.

Thanks for any advice you can give.

sparechange Mon 08-Aug-16 22:07:10

I'm not a lawyer or expert but I have managed the return of several people, and it is my understanding that you lose some of your bargaining chips when you come back part time, because the company is able to argue they need to restructure to accommodate your reduced hours.

If you were coming back full time, you might have a case but by coming back 3 days, and to the same pay and grade, they can easily argue that giving the responsibilities to your colleague (who is presumably FT?) is the only way to ensure continuity of delivery/service

CatSi78 Mon 08-Aug-16 22:10:35

Thanks for the advice. I can see the argument but then should this not have been made clear to me when we agreed the flexible working arrangement? And not 2 weeks before my return. It might have affected my decision after all. In fact it does but now I have a nanny employed so it's much more complicated than it was back in April!

sparechange Mon 08-Aug-16 22:28:33

I think it depends on the individual company culture to an extent, but when someone makes a flexible working request to me, I expect them to understand the wider implications of that, including how it means they will miss out on the projects and work which require 5 day a week work, and that b default, they will end up acting as a support to those working 5 days

It isn't realistic to say you were expecting to manage projects while you aren't in the office, unless you are happy to be contacted and give guidance on your days off.

Did you have to apply for flexible hours and make a case for it? Did you specify in the business case that you wanted to retain certain aspects of your old role?

CatSi78 Mon 08-Aug-16 22:42:04

It was discussed how the projects would move forward in my absence and the additional full time employee reporting to me was agreed. In my proposal for flexible working I included this as the case for how it would work. In my opinion I was returning to work on this basis.

If they don't believe I can do my project management role with the same level as responsibility as before I think this should have been discussed a lot earlier and perhaps the FWA denied on that basis. They agreed to it and are now changing the terms.

BikeRunSki Tue 09-Aug-16 07:09:36

How long have you been off for?

user7755 Tue 09-Aug-16 07:16:09

So when you applied for flexible working, the solution was to employ an additional member of staff to accommodate that? How is that sensible?

Now they've had time to think about it, they have restructured the team roles so that another person takes a co-ordinating role, no-one's wages change, no extra staff are needed. No extra money spent.

Which of your terms are they changing?

tiredandhungryalways Tue 09-Aug-16 07:23:32

Something similar happened to me when I returned after maternity leave. Unfortunately I had to just accept it or loose my job. Shit really but as my salary is the same I just sounded ungrateful (not that you are). Good luck hope it works out better for you than it did me x

Northernlurker Tue 09-Aug-16 07:43:06

I'm sorry I think you are being unreasonable. You've got your three days at the same level and pay. That leaves 40% of the working week when you won't be at work to cover the service. It's reasonable for the work to be re-divided accordingly.
It can hard to accept the differences that part time work makes. It's much harder than ful time I I and what you are seeing now is one of the consequences. You may feel you will be doing full time commitment in part time hours but that's not his the business is likely to perceive it. They see a gap and they can fill that the best they can.
I would suggest you get stuck in to your return, go with the situation and bide your time for a bit.

CatSi78 Tue 09-Aug-16 09:05:24

Thanks ladies. To answer some questions, I've been off for a year + holiday. The change to my t's & c's are that my old contract stated that I report to the head of dept. Now I don't.

I appreciate it is a difficult balance for them but I feel they should have made this change clear earlier. I could then evaluated the situation and decided if it were for me before I had employed a nanny and made arrangements to come back. I also think that the perception that to work part time you have to take roles with fewer responsibilities explains a lot as to why there are very few women in executive positions generally. Basically, once I decide I can work full time again I am now a step further away from the head of department role than I was before I had children. So my career has been negatively affected by having children. A big yay for women's equality.

user7755 Tue 09-Aug-16 09:17:21

I get that you're disappointed but this is real life. You have to be realistic, you can't do the job if you're not there. Something has to give. If you're unhappy, don't go back or look for another job. You can't expect the entire team to take on the extra work and risk associated with someone trying to do the same job in fewer hours, even if you think you'll be fine.

The issue would be exactly the same if it were a male wanting to reduce his hours, it just happens that it's usually women. It's really difficult but if you're career minded I'm sure that it will only be a temporary issue.

PotteringAlong Tue 09-Aug-16 09:20:53

No, your career hasn't been negatively impacted by you having children. Your career has been negatively impacted by you not wanting to work full time.

sparechange Tue 09-Aug-16 09:35:55

I think you are being overly melodramatic about this.
You could have returned to the same job after 6 months if you were so certain about wanting to absolutely maintain your role and therefore promotion track

By taking longer than 6 months, you are accepting the risk that the role will change, by coming back part time, you are expecting them to change your role. To do both, well come on, you can't honestly have expected to have picked up where you left off but with more time at home?

The 'big yay for women's equality' comment is frankly insulting. Your colleague, who has presumably been stepping up in your absence and doing a great job which has been rewarded, is just as entitled to became that woman in an executive role in the future, and shouldn't have her hard work undermined by your lack of reality of what extended maternity leave means in a corporate position.
Failing to comprehend or accept that and mis-labeling it as discrimination is what makes companies nervous about employing women of childbearing age, I'm afraid.

2ndSopranosRule Tue 09-Aug-16 09:36:18

Ime, working pt does impact things. All sorts of things. When I went pt noone else was brought in/redeployed to do parts of my role. I had to make a ft job work in pt hours. It's been very difficult at times admittedly.

Without a doubt though, if you are career minded this temporary situation (which it will be assuming you've still many working years ahead of you) won't have an impact if you work your behind off.

Fwiw I'm still pt, although I do more hours, and got promoted recently.

DragonsEggsAreAllMine Tue 09-Aug-16 09:50:05

So they have accommodated your request that they could have easily turned down, ensured the work is compatible with three days and shared the load with existing employees willing to take it on yet you feel hard done by?

You can't do the same amount of work in three days that you did in five so it was not rocket science to think it would change the role.

It's nothing to do with equality, you just didn't want to work more than three days. Lots work part time for various reasons and accept that it impacts on their career as they can't do a full time role.

CatSi78 Tue 09-Aug-16 10:28:51

I'm not belittling anyone else's achievements. I'm not asking to be promoted or to be considered for promotion in the same way as the other lady as I haven't been there and I'm sure she has worked hard. It's got nothing to do with her. I'm just asking not to be put backwards. But if others feel this is fair then you're entitled to your opinion. I appreciate your time in replying.

TheAlchemist101 Tue 09-Aug-16 10:46:54

Sadly in the real world you can't have your cake and eat it. it is deciding what is most important to you: the career trajectory or spending time with your children when they are young. I chose the latter and my career has never recovered. Now that my dcs are teenagers I still think I made the right choice I have an interesting and satisfying job but not the professorship I was aiming for

sparechange Tue 09-Aug-16 11:21:31

C'mon OP, you can't be so naive as to think there wouldn't be some impact on your career by going part time (let alone taking extended maternity leave, but that's a whole other topic)

You can't move for seeing articles, books, tv discussions where women debate the children vs career conundrum. Only yesterday, the government release figures on the uptake (or lack thereof) of shared parental leave, which reignited the debate yet again, following on from it being in the headlines last week

You haven't gone backwards, you've stood still. But your colleague (and possibly the company) have moved forward while you were at home

There isn't unfairness in that, but there is no contribution to 'The Cause of the Sisterhood' by trying to claim you've been unfairly treated when you chose to stay at home.

2ndSopranosRule Tue 09-Aug-16 12:24:32

Ride it out. Work blooming hard and ride it out.

It took me years of hard work in a pt capacity to position myself. Demonstrate good time management. Don't gripe about your 'lesser' status; just get on with it. Accept that to get on, you may have to find another - ft - role.

In the meantime, remember this: you maybe think you're at a standstill, or going backwards. But you aren't, simply because you are working. You're keeping your career going; this pt period might slow it for a while, but it's still there.

redhat Tue 09-Aug-16 12:32:36

you are not actually guaranteed to return to your old job after mat leave. A similar job on the same terms and conditions is legally acceptable. As such you have no claim I'm afraid.

I'm an employment lawyer.

CatSi78 Tue 09-Aug-16 12:44:12

Thanks red hat. Just to clarify, does a change in reporting line not consitute a change in t&c's if the person you report to and their position was stated in your previous contract?

Thanks for the other comments too. Particularly those working in a pt capacity with real life experiences. Nice to know how you've made it work.

redhat Tue 09-Aug-16 12:56:46

Generally not. It's referring to key terms such as money, hours, place of work etc. Your employer is entitled to restructure (and has done so through necessity as a result of your flexible working application).

I think you'd struggle to get anywhere with this.

CatSi78 Tue 09-Aug-16 13:34:44

Ok, thanks a lot for your advice.

HermioneWeasley Tue 09-Aug-16 19:50:31

If you're paid the same and doing basically the same work, changing your reporting line isn't necessarily a demotion.

Northernlurker Tue 09-Aug-16 21:44:52

Op in 2007 I went on mat leave for a year. When I came back after a year I lost out on promotion to the man previously my subordinate, who'd been in post whilst I was on leave. He became MY line manager in fact. And that sucked. So I got a small promotion in another area and stayed in that job for 6 years. Meanwhile he got promotion again and was two pay bands higher than me. Which did not go unnoticed by me...
And then two years ago I got the promotion I full deserved, shot up the scale and once again am on a higher band than him. So it took me 7 years but I'm where I want to be and I have never worked 37.5 hours in my whole career. I currently do 35 hours.
You have to take the long view and keep going.

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