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New report on maternity discrimination: share your experiences

(62 Posts)
RachelCMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 24-Jul-15 12:39:39

New research published today by the European Human Rights Commission reveals that 54,000 new mothers are being forced out of work every year owing to maternity discrimination. One in 10 of the 3,200 women surveyed had been dismissed, made compulsorily redundant or treated so poorly they had quit their job, and one in 20 said they received a cut in pay or bonus after returning to their job. You can read more about the report and what JustineMumsnet had to say about it here.

This may not come as a surprise to many of you - when we asked Mumsnetters about the impact of having children on their career, to coincide with the launch of Mumsnet Jobs, 91% felt there was a 'motherhood penalty', which sees women's careers take a nosedive post-children and contributes to the gap in workplace pay and seniority between men and women. And in our last Family Friendly programme survey, only 13% of workers said their employer was very family friendly and could not do more.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this report. Please share your experiences below - and if your employer did something particularly great in order to accommodate you before, during or after maternity leave, what was it?

MugsLife Fri 24-Jul-15 13:30:23

Even when your employer tries hard to help, going back to work can be very difficult. I was on a salary of 30k, but I was working in London and living in zone 6 so the cost of nursery and travel would have virtually wiped out my earnings. I considered going back part-time, and my employer would have been flexible with that, but it would have meant leaving my 9 month old in a nursery for all of their waking hours on those days and I didn't want to do that for no money, and couldn't as I was breastfeeding regularly still.

When I got pregnant I was earning more than my partner, but it was me that had to give up work and now his career is flying ahead so it doesn't make sense for us to swap roles now, so I have no chance of catching up. I think this is what happens to a lot of women and it is very frustrating.

I am now trying to make a living as a freelance web designer and hope that I can make my own career fit around being a mother.

dreamingaboutcheese Fri 24-Jul-15 14:13:40

I took part in this survey - after having experienced a shocking reaction from a female boss (and mum) upon telling her I was pregnant. I couldn't believe how archaic and hostile her behaviour was, even though the company itself and its policies are incredibly forward thinking. It just shows it comes down to an individual.

The problem is that when this happens, individuals go for compensation, the businesses settle and you have to walk away with no one knowing what happened, leaving them free to do it to someone else. That makes me sad.

As do the comments on the guardian article... when you read things like this it honestly makes you feel like you've woken up fifty years ago...,3JTM4,K7QA03,CR5XJ,1

rvms Fri 24-Jul-15 14:19:52

I was basically discriminated against just before I went on maternity leave. I had to re-apply for a job I was already doing well in on secondment. I had been doing the job for over a year and my manager confirmed in my end of year assessment that I was fully trained. When it came up to be made permanent I naturally applied - my company is supposed to have a zero tolerance policy on discrimination. However, the head of my department (male with a stay at home wife, mother of 3) tried several times to put me off applying with pretty poor excuses and everytime vehemently insisting it had nothing to do with the fact that I was about to give birth. I applied anyway and had my interview. For the first time in my life a member of HR sat in on the interview to prove that if I was turned down it would have nothing to do with my pregnancy. Of course I didn't get the permanent position, it was given to someone completely untrained from outside the company and I was essentially demoted to the department where I started off. I had been working for 2 years to climb up the career ladder only to end up back at square 1 because I was pregnant. I am very angry and now I am back at work I can see that the person who refused me for the job can't even look me in the face. It doesn't matter what your company's position maybe on discrimination, or even what the law is. Employers always find a way around it if they want to.

MommaRoo78 Fri 24-Jul-15 20:18:11

I saw this on Twitter today. I just started a new job for a large communications company in Walsall when I found out I was pregnant. I had to keep it secret or I knew they'd sack me. I smashed my targets and got my probation signed off before announcing it. I was doing very well at work but when I broke the news my boss (looks like Johnny rotten) started shouting 'why the fuck didn't you tell me about this' 'you must of known before today'!! He then verbally abused me in sales meetings in front of the whole team saying things like 'if any more of you bitches and ho's come in here telling me you're pregnant, I'll have the fucking thing scraped out of you'!! We were all referred to as sluts. The company is aware of this and my colleagues could not believe how I was treated...I put in a grievance and funnily enough NONE of them that had commented how VILE he was, was brave enough to tell the truth. I had to get a as to settle me out so I don't have to go back.

Not to mention the porn in the paper in hospital I know firmly believe THIS COUNTRY Is ASEXIST SHITHOLE!! Next year any female MP gets my votes regardless of her policies. Alienated against Britain.

ZazieSiddharta Fri 24-Jul-15 22:40:16

Its not just mothers/mums-to-be, it's women of child bearing age in general. I worked (briefly) for a company where the management spoke really, really badly in front of the whole staff about a receptionist who was on maternity leave whilst she was off. They adopted an unofficial "no more female employees 20-45" rule. The place had a totally toxic sexist culture. A lot of employers so similar things- women who get married/move in with a partner find their careers stalling in their early 30s just in case they decide to have kids and it would be inconvenient for the company. It's practically impossible to prove but so obviously visible.

Readyforthefuture Sat 25-Jul-15 09:34:05

Going through this now. I'm 15 weeks pregnant and told my employer at 12 weeks. I've been there 8 years, promoted twice, identified for the talent management programme, glowing appraisal this year, maxed out on my bonus in May. The day after I told them I was pregnant, I was told they had concerns about my performance, so much so they had decided to give me 0% in the pay review (the only one in my department that I'm aware of).

I'm not above admitting that I can improve, and I do, every year I get better. But I am not a poor performer! I now live in a world where I document and log everything while everyone waits for the moment where I miss something that they can chuck at me. No actual evidence presented to me so far, and lots of denials that it has anything to do with my pregnant condition.

theendoftheendoftheend Sat 25-Jul-15 09:40:29

I work in the public sector and I have to say my employers have been fab through all my pregnancies and returning to work etc. Maybe it is something the public sector does better.

theendoftheendoftheend Sat 25-Jul-15 09:41:35

mommaroo your story is shocking!

Athenaviolet Sat 25-Jul-15 09:47:16

I was made redundant on maternity leave.

There are still employers who don't think mothers shouldnt work and think they're doing you a favour by letting you go to spend time with your dcs! shock

It has taken 8 years for my pay to get back to the level it was at redundancy (not including inflation).

The cost to all of us in long term lost tax takings is absolutely huge!

Imo the only way to stop this is to criminalise maternity discrimination.

QuiteQuietly Sat 25-Jul-15 14:21:08

Sometimes there are two sides to it all I think. I worked in a City law firm, and they were briliantly flexible when I was pregnant. Let me work from home a couple of days a week, told me not to come in during a heatwave because of the heat of the commute (office had aircon), held my position open while I took maternity leave (instead of offering me something "similar" on return) and gave me my pay rise while off, sanctioned my request for condensed hours and never made me feel like an inconvenience. They congratulated me on my second pregnancy, supported me when DH had an accident and bent over backwards to try to accommodate me when it simply became too difficult to work and manage a tricky homelife. The majority of my colleagues were male, but I never felt like a female freak. However, in the 9 years I worked there two women took the firm to tribunals over allegations of unfair treatment during/following pregnancy and both cases were settled privately. Neither of them were people I would have liked to have had in my team and one of them was particularly notorious for disappearing off for hours at a time. I struggle to believe that these women were greviously wronged - I think they were lazy and looking for an excuse to get away with even more.

There are certainly terrible stories of wrongful treatment of women surrounding maternity leave, but what protection would there be for employers? I can quite understand why some employers would be reluctant to take on women of child-bearing age, and this is only to the detriment of all women whether pregnant or not. Pregnancy is largely a choice and if you are adding value to your workplace, then I can't imagine why a company would not want to treat you well and encourage you back. I think it is the increasing number of rights that come with employment that has led to the incredible growth of zero-hour contracts, short term contracts and agency work - employers are reluctant to commit to straightforward employment with the minefield of responsibilities that come witih it. I now run a small business and outsource to other companies rather than employ people directly for this very reason.

Helish Sat 25-Jul-15 14:30:40

Horrendous it happens to so many people. I'm going through this at the moment, my jobs has been given to someone else on my return from maternity and I've been sidelined into a non-job that's ripe for redundancy at best, being bullied out of the organisation more likely.

Changerazelea Sat 25-Jul-15 20:02:13

I have just been through the worst 12 months of my life as a result of maternity discrimination. Helish very similar story here.

I was the top performer in the team before returning from mat leave, my maternity cover was kept on after my return and customer base I had built up from scratch was left with my replacement despite there not being enough for me to do upon return to work.

As a result of the reduced workload I put in flexible working request which was rejected without any valid reason and breached the flexible working regulations. When I appealed the decision I was on the very same day entered into a performance management process with no actual facts that ascertain I was under performing. I was subjected to blatant vicimisation and discrimination because I dared to assert my right to request flexible working.

I really agree with dreamingaboytcheese employers have nothing holding them back from behaving in this way towards mothers as they always have the upper hand due to the fact tribunal awards are not punitive and only really award loss of earnings.

I feel that until flexible working regulations are changed and flexible working is a right for all the situation for parents will not change for the better.

Helish Sat 25-Jul-15 20:26:34

Can't believe how many companies do this and get away with it. I'm sat watching my mat cover do my job, the job I did really well and spent years building up.

MrsHathaway Sat 25-Jul-15 20:50:00

When I came back from my first ML I didn't have a desk, computer or phone for over six weeks (paralegal). Everyone else in the building had a fixed desk but somehow they forgot mine. They put me in a completely different role for those six weeks (IT) then back to a role junior to what I had left, saying that the senior role could not be done 0.6 PTE then gave it to someone in addition to her role so she was spending no more than 0.5 PTE on it.

They had very carefully given me a performance/service related pay rise while I was away, but once I was in the junior role I was significantly overpaid and wouldn't have qualified for a pay rise for maybe a decade.

What actually prompted me to leave was mc the following year. The treatment I received particularly from HR was despicable and I simply left.

As it happens I fell pregnant five days after starting early in my new job. They could not have been nicer about it and were fully supportive at all stages, professionally and personally. The contrast was striking and really validated my reasons for moving.

However I couldn't return after ML as childcare was - not too expensive, just - but too complicated as the age gap meant the DC wouldn't be with the same provider and the logistics with my long commute (3h/day) were overwhelming.

Changerazelea Sat 25-Jul-15 21:19:09

Mrs Hathaway really good to hear that you had a good experience after a very bad one. Gives us all hope there are better employers out there!

FannyFanakapan Sun 26-Jul-15 09:48:39

its sad to see that nothing has changed in over 12 years, since I left my company.

I was working in a senior role, with 30+ people under me and a multi-million pound turnover in our department, which actually ran as a "loss leader" to the bigger share of the business.

Id built it up from 4 people.

When I went on ML with DC2, I came back to find that a man had been put in my place, and my role was now to be more customer/sales support than operational. Only the bloke used to drink with the sales guys and would go off on the sales jaunts without telling me they were even going. ALso, I was given a bonus on the basis of how well the team did - bit once out of the team, they tried to take that away. I did challenge them, and so they continued too pay me the bonus, but put me in a dead end sector. I knew I was looking at redundancy before too long. ANd then I got pregnant with DC3 and decided to leave after he was born with a medical issue.

While officially on ML, I had a call from 2 separate employees who were either pregnant or just back from maternity. One of them was told she was expected to work 4 hours away from home - even though she had returned early from ML and was still BF her child. She went off on stress leave and eventually left the company to take a lesser paid, but more family friendly role.

Spookimummy Mon 27-Jul-15 09:09:49

I wanted to go back to my old job when baby was about three months old. I did part time days so what did they offer me? Twilight! When I complained they said "well we offered you some hours but you didn't want them". Surely I was within rights to go back into my old job? It was a section no one else liked so I'm sure it wasnt that someone else had it!
Turned out ok anyway, I now have a job with very flexible hours which I know I wouldn't have had at my old place!

Damnautocorrect Mon 27-Jul-15 11:12:14

I had a particularly bad experience when I tried to go back, missed bonus's, not invited to work do's or meetings when others on leave were, not allowed to use my keep in touch days, no desk, no computer, employed people without talking it through with me when I would manage them when I came back.
It was awful.
I complained to HR in my letter of resignation, they were mortified and asked if I wanted to take it further. I didn't, but properly should have. I felt sidelined and bullied.

TheVipperofVipp Mon 27-Jul-15 13:41:47

The firm where I worked when I went on maternity leave said they determined pay rises based on a combination of the budget pot for the coming year and therefore who in the team would be carrying which target, and the past year's performance. Even though I was the highest performer in the otherwise all male team, I was told 'minimal pay raise for you Vipper' when I went on maternity leave because I wouldn't have a target while on maternity leave.

Then when I came back a year later I was told 'minimal performance this last year Vipper, so minimal pay rise' again. Sadly, fell for same things with DC2 too, so had been fed this over 4 pay rise cycles in the end.

Foolish manager left team's pay details on his desk one day. Saw effect of these 4 cycles was to put me approx. 20% less than the pay of the rest of the all male team. Threatened to sue, involved Equal Opportunities Commission, etc. Only ever actually managed to get pay up to sensible level by resigning. Oh and org charts etc mysteriously had me invisible from announcing my pregnancy. Nice.

RedDaisyRed Mon 27-Jul-15 13:51:16

This can do people a lot of good. It is those lulled into thinking staying home for ages who tend to damage their career prospects and their children because they can end up abandoned by a man with no career left!

Changerazelea Mon 27-Jul-15 14:07:37

Red are you on acid? Am I now damaging my career prospects because I had to leave my job because due to maternity discrimination?

Helish Mon 27-Jul-15 14:18:41

Yes it can really do a lot of good knowing that you've been screwed over purely because you dared to go and have a child hmm One of the stupidest things I've read in a long time.

mrsc118 Mon 27-Jul-15 14:23:14

Happened to me. I was working in a predominantly eastern European dominated workforce. The maternity cover for me was slightly cheaper per hour than me. When I was to return they tried to de mote me trying to get me to resign. I fought and fought. They then backed down but the stress of the ordeal made me so ill. My son was born 9 weeks early and had some issues. Eventually he tried again by making 'redundancies' I took that because I'd come to the end of my energy. He wouldn't give up. I needed to focus on myself and my boy. My former boss then re employed virtually all he made redundant except me. The way I see it I'm happier and healthier now anyway. Just wished I'd taken him to court like my solicitor said.

Byrdie Mon 27-Jul-15 14:31:54

My old company couldn't have been better. They were fully supportive - my job was kept open for over a year (on full pay for 6 months and 65% for the remainder) and i was able to tell them how many days i could work when i returned. It was never an issue to go home on time but i also did have to travel overseas and be away overnight a few times. I do think though that, had i brought that up, i would have been moved on a different project. But this was a 60k + job with a decent bonus and i didn't work stupid hours so i felt i had to try my best to do the job without complaining about being away overnight now and again. There was no descrimination at all during my time pregnant, on ML or after i returned, however it came to a point where i had a MC and decided to leave. But my employer paid me compassionate leave plus sick leave for my time off during the MC (it was a bad one - at 20 weeks) right up until i made the decision not to go back. I can honestly say that they were great throughout.

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