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Maternity return to work - unfair treatment?

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  • Maternity return to work - unfair treatment?

    My wife is currently on Maternity leave looking after our first child. She has agreed 12 months with her employer and is due to return early July.

    In January she verbally asked for some flexible working considerations and her boss agreed to look into options. She didn’t receive any feedback until March when she was told to submit a written request and sent the flexible working policy. At this point she was advised ‘off the record’ that the role was full time and the answer to a flexible request would be no.

    She submitted the request and below are some headline facts where I feel she is being unfairly treated. Any advice or guidance would be gratefully received.

    - new forms sent after written request submitted, asked start again with new forms despite being dated after initial request
    - despite repeated requests during mat leave (ML), boss will not facilitate KIT days (ignores requests rather than refuses)
    - Job description changed and emailed without prior notice or discussion
    - deadlines for responses and meetings constantly missed (always an apparent legitimate reason, sickness, personal issues, annual leave etc)
    - advised by boss that role has changed and now requires working late with little notice (previously 9-5 role), and asked how childcare would cope with that
    - told that she is the only one in the team with a dependent and that would/May mean she can’t offer what the others can
    - all meetings have to be local to boss and away from wife’s place of work (80 miles away)
    - part time roles have been recruited into the team during ML but not communicated to wife
    - planned catch up calls always cancelled/rearranged with little or no warning
    - concerns and anxiety about returning to work not addressed
    - internal flexible working policy not followed
    - note taker in meetings was a junior member of the same team who reports to boss (therefore not independent?)
    - job share request of two days refused on business grounds with a one day lower band and salary offered as only alternative to full time return
    - comment about delaying her return to work as the maternity cover contract extends beyond end of ML

    in addition to the above, prior to going on ML my wife’s boss referred to her as ‘fat’ and ‘hormonal’ during the pregnancy.

    Any advice on the above you be very much appreciated.

    Thanks
    Tags: None

  • #2
    I'll tag Ula and mariefab to take a look tomorrow for you, but I'm with you that it's not right, at all. Back door discrimination gets on my nerves.

    What kind of work does she do? How long has she been employed there ?

    Did she have meetings before she went on MT leave and were those local to her place of work normally or near where the boss lives ? (ie is that one of the 'changes' to the job description ?)
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    • #3
      Hi Amethyst,

      thank you very much for the quick reply, things are rather upsetting here currently so appreciate your support.

      She has worked there for 5 years in a tender/bid writing type role. Prior to maternity her boss did also make her travel to her location but that isn’t part of the role per se, just her boss’s stipulation. My view was that someone on ML (and breastfeeding) should be met at their place of work (or close to home/work) even if only out of courtesy and care.

      The changes to the written JD are unlikely to be considered material, although the way it was handled (no discussion or prior warning just “here’s your new JD”) doesn’t show any consideration or care. Of perhaps greater weight was the comments in the meeting that the working hours expected (but not contractual) have increased and wouldn’t be achievable with a little one. My wife didn’t actually want to return full time (hence the flex working request) but has now been frightened into thinking that wouldn’t be possible in any case.

      The situation now is essentially returning full time isn’t possible due to child care issues and the new expectations on working hours. The 2 day flex working request has been declined (and was never truly considered) and the 1 day offer isn’t financially viable (being less hours and also a lower grade).

      We really don’t want to go down a legal process or have any ill feeling at work, but feel unsure what options are available.

      thank you again

      Comment


      • #4
        Hi, jumping in as I received the tag from Amethyst. There is a lot to respond to here so I will try and do it in a logical order and objectively and sorry for the long response!

        - A request for flexible working does need to be put in writing, so in my view as soon as your wife requested this verbally the requisite forms should have been send to her - not delayed for 3 months. Appreciate the pressures of dealing with a young baby (I have been there!!) but just wanted to check whether your wife chased in the intervening time?

        - Even if the company has for some reason updated/changed the form after the submission of the form your wife sent in, pragmatically they should just have used it and if there was anything additional that was required by the new form just get that bit completed.

        - With regard to KIT days in the same way that an employer cannot require an employee to take KIT days the employer is not obliged to offer such days. However if the company does not want to agree to an employee's request for KIT days then again, only my opinion, they should communicate the reason to your wife.

        - Job description change. A business can change and evolve and since your wife took Additional Maternity leave she entitled to return the same job unless this is not practical to do so i.e. a re-organisation however she would be entitled to return to a suitable job on terms not less favourable. If this was the case for you firm then this would be an ideal example of using a KIT day to ask your wife to come in and discuss the changes and the impact on her following her return to work. Are the changes to the job description to your wife's detriment?

        - On these points "advised by boss that role has changed and now requires working late with little notice (previously 9-5 role), and asked how childcare would cope with that and told that she is the only one in the team with a dependent and that would/May mean she can’t offer what the others can. These are discriminatory comments and should not have been made. When were these comments made to our wife?

        - What does your wife's contract state about her location of work? Just thinking that we could argue that meetings should take place at her work location.

        - In what way was the internal flexible working policy not followed Your employer can only refuse your request for one of the following business reasons:

        the burden of additional costs
        the detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand
        they are unable to reorganise the work among existing staff
        they are unable to recruit additional staff
        the detrimental effect on quality
        detrimental effect on performance
        there is not enough work during the periods the employee wants to work, or
        planned structural changes.

        - I presume there was an agreed return to work date. It is unreasonable to expect your wife to postpone her return to work, when the company has been aware of the employees return or could have taken reasonable steps to find out this information long in advance of the return date. If they do delay then the company should still pay your wife if they are delaying her return date as she is ready and willing to work. If this does happen then I suggest that your wife writes to the company stating that she had an agreed return to work date and is ready and willing to work, and point out the company has had reasonable notice of her return and on that basis, she should be paid from the agreed return to work date as it is her right to return to work.

        - In addition there are also the numerous mentions of delay, postponement of meetings etc which has added to the poor way in which our wife's maternity leave has been handled.

        In conclusion there are some issues here that I believe are discriminatory, however it would be useful to get your answers to the further questions I have asked.

        Does you wife have view as to what outcome she wants to achieve?
        I do my best to provide good practical advice, however I do so without liability.
        If you have any doubts then do please seek professional legal advice.


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        Comment


        • #5
          Hi Ula,

          wow thank you so much for taking the time to offer such a comprehensive response, my wife and I really appreciate it.

          In in response to your queries, and keeping to the same order, I’ve added numbers and listed a response to each point for clarity :

          1. Verbal request - After the discussion in January my wife did follow up with her boss but received little response or clarity until being advised a written response was required. My wife’s boss is frequently away from work and difficult to contact (not returning calls and emails etc)

          2. Understood, this is my feeling also.

          3. KIT days - At my wife’s organisation 10 KIT days are part of their maternity policy, whilst I accept this may not be a legal requirement, not facilitating them adds to an argument that the organisation are not demonstrating a desire to keep my wife involved and support her return to work. She does genuinely feel they do not want her to return.

          4. The changes to the JD are not material in truth, they were around reporting lines and workload management etc. My personal distaste around this point was more about how it was (or rather wasn’t) communicated. It came completely out of the blue and made my wife feel uneasy. I accept there is no legal issue here, but again for me it speaks to how insensitively my wife’s maternity has been handled.

          5. discriminatory comments - I agree, these were the comments that made my jaw drop. They were made at the meeting to discuss the decision to reject her flexible working request (job share of 2 days per week) and are recorded within the notes.

          6. Work location - her physical location is an office close to home, however her role did require her to travel. Again perhaps not a legal issue here per se but not very accommodating or considerate. One meeting was actually scheduled at her office but the day before was moved to a more convenient location for her boss. This was challenging from a childcare perspective but we made it work as my wife wants to been seen as doing everything she can to be flexible.

          7. Flexible working policy - this hasn’t been followed mainly from the perspective of timelines and deadlines. Meetings, letters and decisions have always been late, sometimes with communication but often not. My wife is often waiting for a call or email on a deadline day and not receiving anything.

          8. Postponed return - there was a loosely agreed return date, being 12 months from the start of maternity, however I don’t believe this is necessarily formally documented.

          9. Wife’s desired outcome - my wife feels really strongly that she doesn’t want to ‘rock the boat’ or be a ‘trouble maker’. Her desired outcome is for a two day contract pro rata her current rate. She appreciates however that she doesn’t have a legal standing to actually get this. That said if the full time role no longer is achievable for both parties, we are hoping a compromise can be reached. How much she raises about her concerns over the process etc is something we are currently unsure off.

          Thank you again for your time and support

          Comment


          • #6
            Thank you for your further replies to my questions which were really useful. My opinion is that they have not handled your wife's maternity leave very well and there are elements of discriminatory behaviour. It really depends on how formal your wife wants to get at this stage.

            Is there is an HR person/senior manager that maybe your wife could arrange to meet with and discuss the issues on an informal basis.

            Alternatively she could raise a formal grievance covering a number of issues but not knowing your wife's company structure is there a senior manager or HR person who would be independent and view the situation objectively? Although it should not be the case this course of action may also exacerbate the situation.

            In the first instance I would suggest the first course of action is preferable if possible. Your wife then still has the option to revert to the formal process if necessary.

            I do my best to provide good practical advice, however I do so without liability.
            If you have any doubts then do please seek professional legal advice.


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            You are braver than you believe, smarter than you think and stronger than you seem.



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            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks Ula,

              my wife is nervous about raising anything formally so is currently trying to come to an agreement with her manager, some (slow) progress has been made and we’re hoping she can put it all behind her soon. If she’s unable to achieve a satisfactory outcome she will consider speaking with HR as you suggest.

              Thank you again for your time looking at this, it’s very much appreciated and helpful to know there may be other options/actions available.

              Comment


              • #8
                I hope that your wife manages to agree a satisfactory outcome with her manager, much better to resolve things informally if possible. I am sure she will do this but please ensure she gets any agreed new working arrangements confirmed in writing.

                If she does need any more help then you know where we are.
                I do my best to provide good practical advice, however I do so without liability.
                If you have any doubts then do please seek professional legal advice.


                You can’t always stop the waves but you can learn to surf.

                You are braver than you believe, smarter than you think and stronger than you seem.



                If we have helped you we'd appreciate it if you can leave a review on our Trust Pilot page

                Comment

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