Case study 3
I had been working in a senior management role in a leading cosmetics company for several years when I fell pregnant in 2016. The thought never even crossed my mind that it would in any way damage my career. I had a great relationship with everyone, I was a top performing employee, I left everything in meticulous order, I interviewed, hired and trained my maternity cover, my colleagues gave me a nice send off and off I went to become a mum.
During my maternity leave I had several keeping in touch days and everything seemed normal to me, my boss even telling me that he was looking forward to having me back. But as my return date approached and I was preparing to come back to work, things started to change after I had asked about the company’s flexible working policy.
On my last KIT day, 8 months into my maternity leave, my boss informed me that there had been many changes internally and that there would be a restructure. When I asked him if my job would be OK, he promised that I would not be affected. During this meeting I had indicated that I would need some flex on my return to accommodate nursery pick-ups and drop offs. He said that should be ok, ‘see you soon’, and then silence.
I didn’t receive any response to my emails about my flex work request or when I would be returning. This is when I knew something was wrong. I emailed and called several times, and no one returned my calls or emails.
He finally called me, as I was due to go back to work, informing me that there was no job for me to come back to, and that they would offer me ‘some money’ to compensate me. There was no process, no discussion, no apology.
I was devastated by this news. I loved my work and I couldn’t wait to get back. I felt humiliated and diminished as a person. I knew what they did was wrong, but I had no idea how to handle the situation, so I started doing some online research and that’s when I came across PTS.
I spoke to Danielle Ayres on their legal advice line who confirmed that I had a discrimination and unfair dismissal case. In the meantime, my work came back to me with an offer, which was nowhere near what I thought they should pay me. This went on over several weeks and the negotiations started becoming quite stressful and I felt extremely anxious. I asked Danielle to take over the negotiations and to deal with them directly. I wanted to fight, I was so angry, but at the same time it was affecting my mental health.
We finally settled, the week I was due to go back to work. I signed an NDA in exchange for my silence. It was a very bittersweet victory. I had my job taken away from me for no other reason than the fact I had a baby. My maternity cover stayed on in my role, someone younger, cheaper and with no kids.
I was so disillusioned by this experience, and it had so many far reaching implications. I lost all my confidence. I became very depressed when all my mummy friends went back to work after maternity leave and I was left unemployed with mounting bills to pay. Luckily, I had some money to fall back on, but mentally I felt broken and defeated. The hardest part has been not being able to publicly speak about any of this because of the NDA. My rage is an inner silenced one.
Becoming a mum should never be at the detriment of a woman’s career. There is something very broken with a society that does not value and support mums who genuinely need and want to work.