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Ask Ash

14 December 15

Advice column: I'm being put under pressure for extra work despite my pregnancy

Dear Ash

I told my head of department about my pregnancy a couple of months ago and although he initially claimed to be happy for me, I have since noted a distinct change in his behaviour towards me. My partner and I did not plan the pregnancy at such an early stage of our careers, and we were initially quite apprehensive about it; however, after much thought and consideration, we both decided to embrace the news and are now quite excited about becoming parents.

Nevertheless, the attitude of my boss has made me quite apprehensive about my future in the firm. He has been putting undue pressure on me lately to complete work with urgent deadlines, while seemingly deciding not to delegate such work to less busy colleagues of mine. Although I am not expecting favourable treatment because of my condition, I also wasn’t expecting to have so much additional work dumped on me and resulting in my having to work longer hours than my single colleagues, who seem to swan out of the office by 6pm, leaving me to work on by myself till late!

At a recent antenatal checkup, I was advised that my blood pressure was higher than normal and I was told to take things easy at work, but quite frankly, this seems impossible at the moment.

Ash replies:

First of all, congratulations! It seems that you and your partner have made the right decision for you both. However, your predicament at work, although not helpful, is also unfortunately not uncommon.

It seems that your boss is having a hard time accepting your news, and is trying to push you to get as much work from you as possible before you go on maternity leave and making it evident that he will not be giving you any favourable treatment because of your condition. However, your priority should now be your health and wellbeing and that of your unborn baby.

There are already red flags regarding your current health and you cannot – and should not – let work take priority over your health needs; no job is worth doing that. I appreciate that your career is important to you, but you have to try to balance that up with your current main priority of your child.

I suggest that as a first step you ask for a meeting with your boss. At the meeting, make it clear to him that you have health issues, and as a result you will need to cut down on stress levels and other colleagues will need to share some of the current workload. Make clear that you are not shirking from your responsibilities, but that on medical advice, you need to cut down on some of the heavy workload.

As you head closer towards your maternity leave, you will need to cut down in any case and will eventually need to do a handover to other colleagues.

If things do not improve in terms of your workload, I suggest that at the very least, you go back to your doctor and consider all your options. It may be that you are advised to take some time off from work in order to address your health needs; if so, make sure you comply. You may also want to seek some advice from an employment lawyer about your current situation as your treatment at work may also be discriminatory.

It is unfortunate that certain employers are just less accepting and flexible than others towards employees with child commitments, and you may have to accept that your current role may not necessarily suit your new circumstances. However, try not to let the current situation put a damper on things, and do try to enjoy this precious time before your impending arrival. All the best – Merry Christmas!

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor: peter@connectcommunications.co.uk, or mail to Studio 2001, Mile End, Paisley PA1 1JS. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Registrar’s department. For one-to-one advice, contact Katie Wood, manager in the Registrar’s department on 0131 476 8105/8200, or KatieWood@lawscot.org.uk

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