Becoming a working mum
When I found out I was expecting Finlay, I already knew I wanted to be a working mum after maternity Leave. I wanted to be a good role model. Little did I know then how it would pull on my heart strings. I also had no sense of how difficult the financial burden would be. My choice was made though. It was difficult, but I was lucky to have a good boss who understood I needed flexibility. I returned part time on compressed hours. This allowed to balance my childcare between family and nursery. It also importantly kept the cost of childcare down. I had a great work life balance and I was Lucky. Don’t get me wrong, it was still difficult. I longed to be with Finlay. Money was extremely tight, but I knew working was right for me.
The beginning of the end
Fast forward a few years and all has drastically changed. Its been a very difficult time the past 6 months. I have been at my company 10 years in one position or another, I am well liked and respected. I have given a lot to this company over the years. However, the last few years have seen many rounds of redundancies. This year I was served my ‘At Risk’ notice, I panicked. I work as an Administration Manager (part time and in a job share). My pays not great, but its not bad for administration. If I lost my job, how on earth would I find another as a working mum, part time and at my rate of pay? They come few and far between.
Luckily, after the consultation period our team were advised there would be no compulsory redundancies. I felt relief, but it would be short lived. A meeting was held in my absence with the team. We knew Line management was changing, but at this meeting my job Share was discussed. It no longer fitted the needs of the company. My hours would being cut (and given to my job share) and my working pattern would change to ‘office hours’ only. I would not be allowed to come in early or finish late.
Fighting my corner
I sought much advice over this from legal representatives, but I had no money to pay for in depth help. citizen’s advice were great, and I also used a free solicitor consultation, and an acquaintance who knew employment law . I highly recommend Working Families, a charity which provided legal advice to me as a working mum. Time and time again, the term indirect sex discrimination came up. My company were trying to enforce an inflexible working pattern that impacted my child caring responsibilities.
I had tried to negotiate a slight change to the working pattern. This was rejected due to unfairness on other team members. I now know, that this was an unlawful reason. The company had a responsibility to at least look into how the work could be rearranged to allow the flexibility. This was not done. It got to the point where my only option was to raise a grievance. By this point I was signed of due to stress and anxiety.
I put in my grievance to try and get my company to look into how everything had been handled. There were suggestions about how the work could be rearranged. I asked them once more to reconsider my working hours. The very next day I received a letter stating, My role old role was redundant, the contract was up. I was served my redundancy notice (which they apologized that I had not received weeks before). I would be placed on garden leave. If I could not agree to my contract, my employment would terminate at the end of my notice. My grievance would be handled separately.
So now I faced the prospect of losing my job with no redundancy pay. I was so stressed out and I felt so out of my depth. However, I knew I was not wrong about following this up further, but I was torn. Did I carry on and risk the company saying enough is enough? Should I withdraw the grievance and accept my new contract?
At the end of the day I couldn’t risk losing my job. I withdrew my grievance and advised my employer I would accept my new contract. This means with the reduction in hours and additional childcare I have lost about £3500 a year. A huge cut. I’m not sure how we will cope financially only time will tell. I ended up being off work for almost 2 months and returned 2 weeks ago. Luckily there is no animosity, but am I happy now as a working mum? I don’t think so. My job is now only a means to an end. My work life balance has gone and I’m left thinking where do I go from here? I guess only time will tell.
NB: The situation is a lot more in depth and complicated than this post shows, this is just a brief overview but a lot more went on than I have touched upon.