Employer told me as a single mum I should resign... can he do that?(63 Posts)
It's important that I'm specific here. I work in a school and the headteacher told me that if I can't put a contingency plan in place that ensures my arriving to work on time even if my child is found to be ill and needs to see a doctor that morning, then I need to resign. My attendance record is good with the exception of 6 weeks to recover from a broken bone (mine). When my child was ill I took him to the gp, made alternative childcare as arrangements Nursery couldn't take him (contagious) and got in to work for that same afternoon. I have made arrangements for childcare next week until he is well again.
I can't say that it will never happen again and I think I've been reasonable in my actions.
Using anecdotes he explained that women have to make the decision to resign from work if they can't guarantee attending work despite child's unexpected illness.
I'm expecting him to begin picking fault with my work in an attempt to pressure me in to resigning. How can I demonstrate that those things he finds fault in are nothing more than a legal way to dismiss me since he knows using the real reason would be unacceptable.
Family is deceased so he knows this is difficult for me with little support but has said I should have thought about that before I made the decision to have a child. I've worked here for 13 years and want to continue to but I'm feeling devalued and helpless.
I really hope you can offer advice. I'm certain that he would not have said these things in public, but I also know that if I make a formal complaint I won't be able to continue to work here as others stronger than me have tried and failed.
Contact your union. Even in the private sector we have policies permitting emergency leave. I presume you do ring in as soon as you know a problem is arising?
Are you in a union?
Was this an informal chat? A disciplinary? Or did he just come out with it when you were on your own?
He sounds a right dick tbh.
Sorry, I'm not much help, but I used to work somewhere, where it was heavily unionised, and that's the first place I'd have gone if someone came out with such comments.
Thank you for your reply. I'm not a union member unfortunately.
I rang school first thing and to be certain the message was passed on I rang his mobile phone directly (I'm his PA) and gave regular updates throughout the morning with developments. My phone log can show that I repeatedly called GP while it was engaged and rang him as soon as I had an appointment time.
Based on the situation you describe, your employer is being unreasonable. You are entitled to unpaid time off to deal with emergencies. The government website is here https://www.gov.uk/time-off-for-dependants/your-rights. The example they provide is a child needing to go to the doctors. Speak to the union rep at your school - even if you are not a member, they will probably be willing to provide advice and support.
Well, longdistance, I've worked him for a very long time and you seem to have quickly and accurately got the measure of him. I know how he works because I've seen how he dealt with other members of staff when he has them in his crosshairs. They can keep their heads down and lie low until he moves on but I don't have that option since I have to see him daily and he'll grind me down.
Join a union now! No, he can't do this. But you need to be a union member before a proper dispute arises, or you won't be eligible for a lot of the free legal advice they can offer.
No he can't do that. The discrimination act makes it illegal to discriminate due to marital status, gender and parenthood status so as this situation is due to you being a single mother it I completely illegal for him to do this.
I believe that you also have the right to reasonable absence from work sufficient to make arrangements for emergency childcare (which is what you've done) - though not for absence to nurse a child through each illness, which I can see you haven't expected, so that's fine.
Document everything. Keep an account of the date, time and circumstances of this conversation - were there any witnesses? If he makes any attempt to get rid of you, performance-manage you out etc then the fact of this conversation would be very relevant to a strong claim of constructive dismissal if you go to tribunal in the future, but hopefully it won't ever come to that. Any further communication should also be documented and if you can get it witnessed then so much the better. Talk to your union rep - you have the right to take a union rep with you to meetings to help you assert your rights. Your union will be very valuable here and make those subscriptions worthwhile.
Is it a state or private school? I don't work in schools and don't know how hr is usually managed, but in a non-school public organisation then a quiet word with an appropriate person in hr in which you are, all innocent "just enquiring what central policy is on this because I thought I had the right to reasonable absence to arrange emergency childcare when this happens, and not to be discriminated against as a single parent" - but NOT making it an official complaint - would be sufficient for hr to hear alarm bells ringing and ward off a potentially expensive legal explosion by telling the boss, informally, to stop being a discriminatory arse.
Xpost with everyone above, there was only the op visible when I started writing that. I echo - join the union right now and get them on-side.
I always felt that if it came to me needing union support that it would already be too late to reconcile, and it feels like that now. Thank you for the link Trapper; I don't mind it being unpaid but he is saying it must never happen again full stop.
I'm seriously considering hiding a recording device to record our next 'discussion' because he's going to be mad when I tell him I have no intention of resigning.
The reason you are being advised to engage with a union is that this sounds like constructive dismissal. If you were to leave based on his advice, it could be viewed that the employer terminated your contract and that you would be entitled to notice and redundancy pay, plus compensation for expenses incurred. Cases such as this can be difficult to prove, time consuming and expensive. Involving a union now could prevent it ever getting to that stage as they could help your manager understand he is not acting within the law and needs to change his behaviour.
Are you employed by a local authority? (Please say yes.)
If so, there will be clear policies on absence that will apply to you. In my LA you would be entitled to special leave in an emergency if your child is ill although after a certain number of days it would be at the head's discretion.
In the scenario you describe there would be no problem at all.
He sounds like a bully and he has acted illegally.
A recording would not be admissible as evidence due to the possibility of editing/tampering. You need a witness and notes from the meeting. Ideally there should be a formal record of the meeting agreed by all parties.
And what would you do with the recording? Not sure it would be allowed as evidence.
It isn't too late - now is the start and he will get away with it.
Even if it's too late to reconcile, it's worth fighting as the compensation you would get from a constructive dismissal case, if it ever came to that, would be significant. If you can get your union and hr aware of what's happening it may be him who leaves not you. It's not too late to join the union - you might get less benefit from it than you would have if you were already a member before this, but they can still help you (and can do so behind the scenes if you feel the active presence of a union rep would aggravate the situation)
Thank you, Fish... though you could have put some effort into your reply!
It's a state school and no he wouldn't say it in front of a witness despite threatening to 'take this the formal route'. I think I'll have to tell him to do just that because I haven't been unreasonable.
Because it was informal I can't take anyone in with me... we meet multiple times a day and I never know when he's going to start addressing this. It really is quite a unique situation as his PA compared to other staff.
I can't talk about this with colleagues as part of my job is to promote his competence and increase confidence in him as their head.
The HR is dealt with externally and he would take unkindly to any inference that he had been inappropriate. Our close contact has me over a barrel and he knows exactly what he's doing.
I once told him he couldn't legally do something and his exact words were 'I will continue to until someone tells me I can't'. That sums him up well. If it comes to sickness from work related stress or a complaint against him at any level I'll end up being left with a poor reference as he can be and has shown he is vindictive.
Join a union immediately and speak to them soon thereafter.
Your boss is a cunt.
When you bring a constructive dismissal case against this arsehole, it is very much common practice to include negotiating an appropriate non-vindictive reference to be agreed as part of the settlement.
I'm overwhelmed by your responses at daft o'clock on a Sunday morning, thank you so much.
It is a local authority school and I know policy wise he can't do this but...
I will most definitely keep clear and precise notes from hereon, just in case. I will also enquire with a union rep. This is a ridiculous situation that really seems to have come from my broken bone absence TBH.
Find out what the absence policy is and give him a copy on Monday. Should be on your Intranet or ring your LA (well you know, you're a PA!)
'part of my job is to promote his competence and increase confidence in him as their head'
Gosh, I wonder why he needs that to be in the job description of his PA. I would say he sounds like a tit but I like tits. To think that this man is guiding the moral development of children makes me feel sick.
Join a union, pay for a session with an employment lawyer. It is never too late to do this, though doing it earlier is obviously better.
The way he is treating you is disgusting. You might need to take him on which, like all bullies, he will hate.
I've provided agreed references before, but he has on occasion made a supplementary telephone call to explain why he can't complete a set reference template provided by the prospective employer.
You know when you don't have family/colleagues to talk to about things like this, it can be isolating and you can lose perspective. Your constructive advice has helped me see that there is an alternative support network and your blunt remarks on him have even made me laugh, which I never thought would be possible this morning!
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