My experience of maternity discrimination in the voluntary sector

When I first went on maternity leave from my voluntary sector job for a UK organisation with a Wales branch in Cardiff, the organisation made the decision not to cover my leave to save money.  When I contacted work to arrange my return from maternity leave, I was told that I was being made redundant due to loss of funding while I had been off.  I got the union involved and fought hard on the basis that mine should not automatically have been the only post up for redundancy and that the funding might not have been lost had I been in post over the previous year meeting new funders, developing projects and carrying out my job, which instead had to be covered by colleagues who might otherwise have been able to secure funding.  Fortunately for me, my organisation did a U-turn when they saw that I was not going to take redundancy quietly.  However, trying to fight the redundancy when I had a small baby to look after was hard work.  I was very lucky that I had relatives who could look after him while I spent time on phone calls and drawing up a business case for the retention of my post.  If I had not been so lucky, it would have been very hard because parents on maternity leave generally don't have any childcare in place as it isn't needed at that stage, and a baby would need to be carefully settled in to any new childcare over a period of time.  I also felt very isolated because I was fighting redundancy while on leave from work - many of my colleagues did not even know this situation was happening and so I didn't have any support from colleagues apart from those in the union who were directly involved and those I was close enough to to be in personal contact with outside of work. I was also scared that if I lost my job and had to apply for a new one that I had been out of work for the best part of a year and so it would be harder for me to find employment than for someone who had been working until being made redundant.
The second time I went on maternity leave, my employer did cover my post however my maternity
cover did a job with a narrower focus than than I had and some of my responsibilities were passed to a junior colleague, allowing him to get regraded to the same level as me (and then later get
promoted over me).  For both of my maternity leaves, I was not kept informed of job opportunities that were advertised internally while I was off.  Both times, I returned feeling like I was not valued as an employee, but particularly after the first time when it seemed that my employers were oblivious to the fact that it made a difference to the organisation (and its funding) whether I was there or not.  In addition, I faced further discrimination in terms of negative attitudes to attending training as someone who returned part time "You already work part time so if we agree to you attending a training course, you won't ever be in the office"and missing out on promotion to a less experienced and qualified colleague "The job might require overnight stays and as a mother of young children, you wouldn't want to do that".

Why the contribution is important

I would like there to be more support for mothers facing maternity discrimination so we have a
clearer idea of our rights and what options are open to us to fight redundancy.  Women on
maternity leave shouldn't ever be in a position of having to fight for their job during a period when
they have no childcare, are isolated from colleagues and are focussed on recovering from birth and
caring for a baby.  
The Welsh Government could lead an awareness campaign about maternity discrimination, where to
seek help, and remind employers what a valuable asset that all women, including those with children
and who work part-time, are to an organisation.

by MoreThanAMother on March 19, 2018 at 12:56PM

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  • Posted by Helenteacher March 19, 2018 at 14:12

    I think this post highlights some very common attitudes towards maternity cover and parents who return to work in both part time and full time roles. I think we need to move towards a society where it is common for both parents to take equal responsibility for their children, and legislation is starting to support this, but whilst discrimination threatens the careers of those taking time to raise their children it will be very difficult for both parents to take this risk.
  • Posted by catrinmairedwards March 19, 2018 at 19:44

    This sounds all too familiar!
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