Maternity leave can be an amazing time for a woman. A time to bond and really grow as a mother. I treasured my time with Max, yes I struggled with PND but those few months together are priceless.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission have recently done a study about maternity leave and the problems some women have faced in the workplace so I thought I would share my experience with you all.
I found out I was pregnant quite late in term (6 months) so I had to rush through appointments, checks and arrange maternity leave almost instantly. In that time I found my employer to be fairly hostile. They were a well known sales company that had a high turnover of staff and didn't seem to favour females too well. I was told under no circumstances that I was allowed appointments during work hours and I had to stay on my feet all shift and only sit down for short bursts. Considering I was there until 38 weeks I'm surprised I managed it.
Once on maternity leave, I had no contact from my store. They never offered keep in touch days and became very reserved as it neared my return to work. Upon having a meeting to return I was told I was a liability for having a child, I should stay at home and look after him like all women should and they weren't willing to be flexible at all for me. I got sent to a store I had never worked in and my anxiety and depression started up again.
Legally I had to stay employed by the company for 1 month after returning from maternity leave or risk paying back all the company paid maternity pay. I couldn't afford to do this, so after two weeks of working in a place full of hearsay and negativity I went to my doctor. He signed me off for the remainder of the month and I handed in my notice. I didn't care about the potentially bad reference. I just wanted out.
Luckily I managed to pick up a new job in a company that is understanding and flexible with any issue I might have. I have compassionate colleagues who treat me with respect. But some women don't get this option and it takes them a long time to come back from such a negative workplace experience.
- The EHRC found that 1 in 9 mums were unfairly dismissed or made to feel like they should quit their job. As one of those I can tell you how demoralising it is to feel that being a parent should in any way affect your ability to work a job.
- 1 in 5 women experienced harassment or negativity from employers or colleagues over flexible working. My employer wouldn't even entertain the idea of flexible working even though as soon as I left they advertised for a role in those hours.
- 10% were encouraged not to attend antenatal appointments if they clashed with work hours. This is appalling as these appointments are vital and important to ensuring the health and safety of mother and child.
- 1 in 7 were not given suitable workloads or work and as a result were treated unfairly in the workplace. This means that they not only put themselves at risk, they also could put their child at risk by not being able to take care of themselves.