Updated: Mar 18
I am looking for some advice and hoping you can spare some time to help me. I am currently on maternity leave,which hasn't been the nice relaxed kind you read about! I am going due back to work soon and I am seriously confused as to what to do....before I left my manager had a conversation with me about taking on more work....which I am happy to do....but had concerns about this progressing when I said I was pregnant.He said no....why would it....I explained my concerns after having my first child and integrating myself back in to work.
I was honest and said I can see women can be treated differently and being pregnant can push you back a few years in career progression.I have seen this numerous times. To make a long story short (apologies!) before I left...I presented to the team on current and additional work. My manager was not overjoyed with my presentation and then lashed out at me which I took in the chin.I then explained we could change things etc.We progressed that further and then started to talk about the next "challenge" my pregnancy.I was in shock and felt sick. It took a few days before I could speak to him one on one without being emotional. It was hard to do and I am still not satisfied it was resolved before I left.
I will be going back as I say and I am scared as to what I am going back to and also fearful that he is the big manager and if I did complain to HR they are very much on his side. I would like to remain anonymous talking to you here...but what I am not so eloquently asking (baby brain still very strong!) Is how would you suggest handling a situation like this? I have asked my loved ones that I trust what they would do and of course I have an array of different t opinions. I don't want to be hasty or emotional about anything. However, I do have to stand up for myself and others who are also obviously being treated this way. But I need my job...what should I do here?Should I complain and stay or complain and go or just discuss with this manager when I am back. Appreciate your time on this question, thank you!
This is a horrible situation in which to find yourself. You are obviously quite senior, reporting directly to the GM, and from what you said in the first part of your letter, he seems predisposed to you coming back and taking up your role as before, perhaps because he knows that legally and under company policy, that is how things should be. His words 'the problem' were very ill judged. It is possible that he displayed poor leadership and self control during that encounter but one can't help but think that it reflects his true feelings. But, he may well be able to get himself back in check on your return.
In most situations, timing is critical. Go back to work and see what the mood is. If it's good, keep being brilliant at your job and ask for a feedback session. You could talk to him directly about what he said and tell him how unbalancing it was for you, once the high emotion has dissipated. Who knows, he may regret saying it himself. You're point is that his behaviour was not good enough shouldn't be done to you or anyone else. This discussion could get you that. If you go back to work and the mood persists, then you really have a problem. Who does he think is going to oil the wheels of society and the economy when he is in his dotage? That's right, the child that you're creating, at significant cost to yourself, your career, your body and your brain.
We reached out to Oonagh Kelly, a HR professional with over 20 years experience who is a passionate advocate for women and working families, particularly when it comes to returning to work from maternity leave, Oonagh is writing this in a personal capacity. Without knowing all the details of this case, Ooangh is giving an opinion and some options rather than a direct solution, but her advice is granular and razor sharp.
Firstly hats off to you for being brave and speaking out (and it’s not baby brain. It’s called
exhaustion. All parents get it and you come across very coherently! Please be kind to
yourself!). Secondly I am so sorry to hear that you are being treated like this and thirdly
please know you are not alone. You are protected by law from any kind of discriminatory
treatment in relation to your family status ( either in pregnancy or any aspect of family
status) Also you will find there is a growing army of women and men at your side ready to
call time on this kind of treatment and we are all right there to support you and all pregnant
women as well as all parents.
Your pregnancy and family status are protected under the Equal Status Acts 2000-2018
which outlaw discrimination at work. Knowing you have the law on your side is important
for you to know because from what you describe, it does sound like the environment is
tough. No matter how much HR might like to be on the side of the GM, their role is to
ensure the company complies with the law and to protect employees so hopefully they can
realise this very quickly. You don’t say how big the company is but if there’s a full time HR
person or department I’m guessing it’s a reasonable size.
Does your company have an up to date policy manual / employee handbook that is easily
accessible ( without having to ask HR for it ) and does it have a clear grievance policy -
that is the first thing to find out in terms of working out the steps you may wish to take and
what the internal complaints process is.
You have several strong options. You can notify the company of your intent to return in line
with legislation, return, keep the head down, find a new job and leave.
You can also push out your return by taking some parental leave if you can afford it / and
at the very least do make sure you exhaust all maternity pay and the new statutory parents
leave that was introduced last November.
You can also do all of the above, see if the situation has changed or attitudes have
improved and if they have not you can then file a formal complaint if you wish to do so.
You can also file a complaint at the WRC in and it would be worth checking out the
workplacerelations.ie website for some helpful guidance in relation to your rights under the
law and the protections that apply.
Document everything that has happened to you so far, and anything you are aware of in
relation to other employees who unfortunately have had to suffer the same thing.
You do not have to put up with snide comments, unfair or unequal treatment, hostile or
undermining behaviour and you do not have to suffer in silence. Make sure you look after
yourself through this as it can be a lonely time and given what you can describe, it can feel
like the system is against you. It isn’t. The law is on your side. Speak up, speak out and do
what is right for you and your family.
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