I was subject to what I felt was discriminatory action during my pregnancy with Pudding. It wasn’t done openly but in a covert way I felt I was being punished. You see when I applied and accepted a new job, I wasn’t pregnant. I wasn’t even trying to get pregnant. But lo and behold when I turned up on the first day I felt decidedly queasy. I put it down to being nervous. It wasn’t nerves, I was in fact pregnant, just pregnant enough to show in a test. Oh how I struggled with the dilemma of telling my new boss. But tell them I must because I knew I would need to make some alterations to my work patterns.
Initially they took it reasonably well. They didn’t sing from the roof tops obviously. I could kind of understand where they were coming from, after all that had just employed a young vibrant woman full of potential. Having her go off on maternity leave in a few short months was not in their plan (nor mine come to that).
The discrimination started with small things. I was suffering with sickness, not in the morning but in the evening. So I requested to swap my night shifts for days so that I could continue working. This was met with a less than helpful attitude. Despite giving them a weeks notice, my manager advised that I would have to find people to swap myself. If I could find no one then I would have to take the time as holiday. I ended up having to use a chunk of my annual leave because they were unable to accommodate me.
On inspection of the new rota, I realised that for the next 9 weeks I was only on nights. Despite having told them that I was not coping well with night shifts. I did the best I could but after a few weeks of nights I couldn’t continue. My head was pounding and I felt sick all the time. I called into work to tell them I was unwell. There was no sympathy or well wishes. I ended up at the doctors who signed me off for two weeks.
Work requested I sent the certificate to them but no one called to see how I was. I eventually ended up in hospital, having to undertake a scan of my head to check that I wasn’t suffering from a blood clot on my brain due to the continuous nature of the headaches. When work finally called to ask if I was coming there was no concern for what I had endured.
I did return to work after being signed off for 3 weeks. My meeting with the manager was less than pleasant. Blamed for being unwell and told that it was my fault for picking up an extra 7 hour shift somewhere else. I was then informed that I would be subject to a sickness review for the period of time I had off and that any further episodes of sickness would be monitored.
So upset with how I had been treated that I decided I know longer wished to work their. I made the difficult decision to find alternative employment at 25 weeks pregnant. To my surprise I was offered two positions and I jumped ship without looking back. The experience left me feeling very vulnerable and I spent some time researching my rights as a mother to be.
Here are some of the most important things to remember if you are being discriminated against at work.
- You are allowed to request time off for antenatal appointments – you should not have to make the time up afterwards
- Your employer must conduct a health and safety review once you advise them of your pregnancy and your working conditions must be adapted where possible to ensure the safety of you and your unborn child
- If you require time off for pregnancy related conditions these should not be subject to any disciplinary proceedings in line with the usual sickness policy. (In short you should not be penalised for being pregnant)
- The date for enforced maternity leave is now 36 weeks – you cannot be forced to take maternity leave any earlier than then. Even if you are unwell during your pregnancy.
Women have a right to be able to work whilst pregnant in a way that does not put either ourselves or our unborn child at risk. If you feel that you are being discriminated against or unfairly treated at work due to your pregnancy, then speak out. Know your rights.