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Changes to my role while pregnant - advice please(10 Posts)
I'm currently 16 weeks pregnant. I work in a management position in a large company, in a very male dominated sector in a very male dominated department. For reference less than 10% of the employees on site are female and less than 5% of my department are female.
I've been off work for a week with viral gastrointestisis, on my return work my boss told me that one of my major projects has been reassigned. The project takes up about 40% of my time and covers maybe 4 out of 7 main competencies which are key to my role. All the work for the project is being delivered by the team that I manage. I have been managing this project for over a year now.
My bosses main reason for reassigned my project is that it will continue after I go on maternity leave and that he's worried that I'll need more time off for appointments as my pregnancy continues. He's been clear that it would not have been reassigned if I were not pregnant.
I feel very undermined and like I'm being deskilled as a result of this change. I'm unhappy that it wasn't discussed with me and presented as a done deal. I'm also not happy that I have four and a half months left at work and a 60% workload.
I understand that changes can be made to my role because of my pregnancy and I am not clear if this particular change equates to discrimination or not. I have a meeting to talk to my boss about the change tomorrow and I could really use some assistance getting my thoughts in order before then.
I'm also not happy that I have four and a half months left at work and a 60% workload.
You might be a lot happier about that in 8 weeks time. Have you spoken to them? If the project will continue after you go on maternity leave it seems reasonable to swap it now so there is a long handover period to iron out any problems.
Thanks for the response.
No I haven't spoken to my boss yet. I have a meeting booked with him tomorrow.
I have considered that not having a big stressful project on while I'm heavily pregnant might be easier. However my workload isn't being replaced with anything else. I'm literally twiddling my thumbs for 40% of my time. And this is genuinely the day to day meat of my work and responsibilities that's been taken off me with no discussion.
So when would you like it to have been taken off you? Because, with the best will in the world, you cannot do it when you’re on maternity leave so at some point in the next 16? 18 weeks? Take out Christmas then maybe 14 weeks? You will be completely unavailable to do it. Maybe this is just the easiest point for the company to manage that transition? See what they say tomorrow, but I think the leap that they are discriminating against you rather than just planning ahead might be a bit unfair.
I had assumed that I would continue doing my job and that maternity cover would be recruited in November enabling me to do a full handover of all my work before leaving for maternity leave.
It feels instead like maternity cover has just started now instead.
Honestly I have some professional concerns about the PM taking over, who has made some fairly major mistakes already, but I am trying very hard not to make this about his technical capabilities and instead focus on the lack of consultation, reduction in workload and being undermined generally by the knock on effect of this project being transferred. It has resulted in a large part of my department's budget being removed from my control and allocated to the new PM.
I suppose that my professional identity has always been important to me and having that diminished before I was ready/expecting it has been hard to deal with.
Removing 40% of your role because of time off for future ante natal appointments and because the project will continue while you are on maternity leave is 2 counts of direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
The terms of your employment have been significantly altered by the unilateral decision of your employer. You have also been subjected to the detriment of being left with insufficient work to occupy your time and having your role deskilled.
See s.39(2) of the Equality Act 2010 below:
Employers are usually very careful to try to disguise this kind of conduct these days. So, it's a rare thing to find an employer acting in such an openly discriminatory manner.
If part of the reason for the decision was an outdated paternalistic perception that this was being done for own your well being during your pregnancy and/or the blanket idea that pregnant women can't cope with their workload those would be discriminatory reasons for making this change to the terms of your employment.
If any kind of change was necessary because you were currently having difficulty performing your role that's what the duty to make reasonable adjustments is for.
I would write up a note similar to your opening post to take to the meeting.
I'd say that there's no need to remove the project from your role as the person covering your maternity leave can take over when your maternity leave starts and you'll be happy to help with the handover when that time approaches.
As for ante natal appointments; you will delegate any matters that need to be dealt with while you attend them or deal with them on your return.
Your instinct to not make this about what the PM is doing is right.
This isn't about what's happening to the project in the absence of your input.
It's about the discriminatory removal of the project from your role.
That's really interesting and helpful @mariefab.
I do think my boss is doing this (misguidedly) to protect me. I'm the only female manager he has on the SMT and I know he had a fright when I was hospitalised with a miscarriage last year. I don't want to turn this into a grievance, I just want to be able to do my job and hand over in a timely I effective manner.
He's claiming that he hasn't changed my job, he's just reallocated a project, but I don't think he understands the knock on implications for my day to day workload. Hopefully our meeting tomorrow can help resolve this.
Please seek advice from a lawyer and speak to HR. The changes might seem well intentioned but are very obviously discrimination - NOT LEGAL. If they're doing this to you now, imagine what you're going to find when you're back. I would take control ASAP. Good luck x