Advice column: I don't feel secure in my position on returning to work after maternity leave. What should I do?
I have recently returned to work after taking six months’ maternity leave. I didn’t want to take too much time off work as I had not long been at my job before falling pregnant and did not want to jeopardise my position at work. My job was covered by a locum, who happens to be a good friend of the head of department, and although he was only to cover for me while I was away, he has yet to leave. The locum has not handed back many of my files and seems to be telling me what I should be doing. When I attempted to speak to the head about this, he avoided the issue, and instead asked if I knew when I was likely to have another child as he was considering keeping on the locum on a permanent basis! I was shocked by the comments and left the room. I’m not sure how to handle the matter.
The head of department was out of order asking you when you were likely to have your next child, and this is contrary to sex discrimination legislation. In fact an employer cannot treat a woman less favourably due to reasons connected with pregnancy.
I suggest you set your grievances down in writing and submit this to the head of the department. The company will require to investigate the matter and to hold a meeting with you to discuss it. The head of department’s allegiance to his friendship is probably clouding his judgment right now, and by setting out your grievances in writing, this may help him to focus on the issues at hand. If you are still left dissatisfied with the outcome, then I suggest you meet with an employment solicitor to discuss your options.
Many women face less favourable treatment at work after having children, but attitudes are improving slowly but surely. You just need to have the confidence to stand up for yourself and not be made to feel guilty for doing something as natural as having children!
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