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Was asked at interview if I'm planning to have more children!

(25 Posts)
AlexanderSkarsgardOhYes Tue 07-Aug-12 18:48:26

So I had an interview for a job as a dentist's receptionist at a small private practice. The woman who interviewed me told the previous incumbent had gone on maternity leave and decided not to come back after that, and was obvious somewhat put out by that fact. At the end of the interview she said to me, apparently quite seriously, "You're not planning to have more children, are you?". She then put her hand over her mouth and said, "Oops, I'm not supposed to ask things like that, am I?", and changed the subject. I was shocked and won't be taking the job if I'm offered it (major alarm bells going off in my head). Is this kind of thing common in the private sector? (I've always worked, and so been interviewed in, the public sector). Just thought I'd share my story, and double check that it is 2012 not the 1950s!

amothersplaceisinthewrong Tue 07-Aug-12 18:49:44

Isnt' it against employment law to ask that question? I am quite sure you are not meant to ask it!

jellyrolly Tue 07-Aug-12 18:53:14

Was she Jennifer Aniston in Horrible Bosses?

AlexanderSkarsgardOhYes Tue 07-Aug-12 18:55:05

Yeah, I think it is. I'm wondering how widespread an occurance it is in the private sector.

TheMonster Tue 07-Aug-12 18:56:12

Sounds like she was thinking it and it came out before she could stop it.

AlexanderSkarsgardOhYes Tue 07-Aug-12 18:57:12

Sorry, x-post. I wouldn't have minded so much if she was Jennifer Aniston, at least I'd have got to meet Jen An!

yellowraincoat Tue 07-Aug-12 18:58:48

Wow, that's bad.

Lilymaid Tue 07-Aug-12 19:01:15

We had diversity training at work recently and were fuming about that question. However, I'm in my 50s and at my annual appraisal my boss asked me when I was going to retire!

jellyrolly Tue 07-Aug-12 19:17:47

I've worked in a few (private sector) places where male bosses have asked that question "as a joke" or "it just slipped out" when they have had every intention of asking it just to guage the reaction.

I'd be tempted to ask them if they are planning to harrass me.

AlexanderSkarsgardOhYes Tue 07-Aug-12 19:23:43

Yes, it's because I imagine they would harass me that I'm not going to take the job if offered it. I actually am hoping to have another DC in the near future and I don't fancy having a miserable pregnancy coz my boss is having a mardy coz I'm going on maternity leave (I also wouldn't go back with a small baby unless they reduced the hours, it's 4 full days a week).

TheWizardsWife Tue 07-Aug-12 19:25:40

I was asked when moving from public to private sector. I was also shocked but assumed it the norm.

Happiestinwellybobs Tue 07-Aug-12 19:28:58

I was once told by my male interviewer (about 10 years ago) that the hours of the job I was applying for we're long and asked whether my DH would mind me not having his tea on the table !!!!!

80sMum Tue 07-Aug-12 19:29:36

She accidentally spoke the question that every small private employer would be thinking. It is illegal to turn someone down for a job on the grounds that they are a female of childbearing age, but you can bet your life it happens. Another reason would be the 'official' reason, of course.
I have to say, I have a lot of sympathy for employers in this respect.

AlexanderSkarsgardOhYes Tue 07-Aug-12 20:02:47

I have no sympathy for employers. People have got to work to live, and a good employee is a good employee regardless of whether or not they've got children - the right thing to do is to make adjustments to allow people to work for you, if they will be good at their job. Plus it's a long-term investment - mums with small children don't stay mums with small children forever, in fact for most of their working lives they won't be such.

AgentProvocateur Tue 07-Aug-12 20:10:00

It's not illegal to ask the question as long as she asked the male candidates too. It's tricky - having been in the situation of employing two people who quickly got pregnant and took a year off (then didn't come back), I can appreciate its a real arseache for small companies.

BoffinMum Sun 12-Aug-12 11:02:36

It's a pointless question to ask anyway, because nobody knows what the future might hold. Women can get pregnant by accident, or not be able to when they want to. Sometimes men need chunks of time off as well, for example if they develop a serious disease, or domestic problems, and that can't be planned for either. Employers need to make sure they have a business model that can accommodate staff members being human. (And yes, I happen to be an employer).

DilysPrice Sun 12-Aug-12 11:32:04

It's illegal and unprofessional but I wouldn't turn down an otherwise good job because of it, because employers who are completely happy with employees going on maternity leave are rare verging on mythical - they're normally just better at hiding it. And receptionist jobs work very well part time.

But I'd suspect that she's "accidentally" asking everyone, and the job will go to either a much older or much younger woman or a woman in her late twenties who has leapt at the opportunity to say "Oh god, no, nasty smelly little brats" (and will leave to travel round the world in six months time).

Numberlock Sun 12-Aug-12 11:35:47

Another point, don't assume that she had ever received any formal interview training. She may have just been told to recruit and get on with it.

I've been interviewed by some terrible interviewers over the years, it's a skill like any other that needs training and practice, same with performance appraisals.

Probably just another hapless interviewer.

AlexanderSkarsgardOhYes Fri 17-Aug-12 19:14:44

Oh well, I didn't get the job anyway.

IfElephantsWoreTrousers Fri 17-Aug-12 19:24:15

AgentProvocateur it definitely is illegal to ask this question, even if you do ask men too. I've just had my training on complying with equalities legislation in recruitment, so I'm sure of this.

Beckamaw Tue 21-Aug-12 22:39:41

I was once given an internal promotion over an older man.
When my boss left, I was asked to clear out his filing cabinet. Inside I discovered his documents relating to promotions/ new staff.
There was a list of pros and cons for each candidate. Against my name was 'Excellent worker, exemplary test results but will probably want to have children"

AlexanderSkarsgardOhYes Wed 22-Aug-12 17:15:24

That's terrible Becka.

alittlebitshy Wed 22-Aug-12 17:26:44

Ugh - I had a job when i first qualified (libraries). I was just married and 2 weeks inot the job discovered I was pregnant. Eeek.
My boss was absolutely terrible about it. I was shocked enough about being pregnant (yes i was married but at 23 I was not ready....) and she made bald comments such as "you should have been more careful" and refused to allow me to go to maternity appointments.

I was signed off sick (hyperemesis alongside stress) and eventually left the job (constructive dismissal).

So no - you DO NOT want to be in such an environment when pregnant!!!

AlexanderSkarsgardOhYes Wed 22-Aug-12 17:33:35

Ooh, so you already work/have worked in libraries, alittlebitshy? I applied for this receptionist job coz it's a five minute walk from my house but really I want to get in to libraries - maybe you could give me some tips?

aethelfleda Sun 26-Aug-12 21:57:03

They are not allowed to ask but if they want to find out that says something about them.

Was at a job interview several years back. The (male) interview panel leader said "we're not allowed to ask if you are likely to have children". I smiled sweetly and replied "nope, you're not". They passed me over for an older lady with two kids... Who was then pregnant again within a year of taking up the post. Karma?

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