Mat leave update (sorry, v long)
So sorry it's long. I think I am using this to think everything through as I post to be honest, most of you will probably skip it anyway. And I wonder if this is going to be controversial but some folk have asked how sorting it out went so I'll set the scene...
I've only been here 7 months, though I applied in December, they took months to appoint. I am the only person in my position and there is no one I can be covered by except through employing a temp. I work with 5 very different businesses. All male dominated, it's family firm grown large, husbands (in the SMT) work and their women raise the kids, business is going through a difficult time and the owner expressed concern about 'who to bring problems to' in my absence and that potentially it could have a detrimental effect on the objectives for next year if I am covered and on mat leave (and he's right). I have made a lot of changes in 7 months here, within the team, to processes, reporting deadlines and all sorts of things, and it would be very hard for someone to take that on at a time when the team still need so much guidance.
In addition, although he's had a telling off from both me and our new HR manager, my boss wanted to reject my favourite candidate for my new finance manager because she has pre-school children and 'what happens if they're ill and she stays home regularly to look after them?' D'oh. But it's that kind of thing I face regularly.
I love my job. It's a big part of my life. I'm proud of what I have achieved at nightschool, I didn't go back to education until my son was 9 months old. Hubby is a movie buff and loves his cycling and sports but I use my spare time to do the best job I can and I take my work very seriously. I found myself out of work this year temporarily and I was a wreck, the thought of not having that purpose really upset me. I have worked full-time for 21 years now. I earn twice my husband's salary and we can't afford for either of us not to be working. The maximum maternity leave I would have been looking at taking was 3 months, due to financial constraints.
I know that discriminating against pregnant women is illegal and I know that many women win tribunals every year, but I would be lying if I said I am not concerned about my career prospects (there is a promotion I should be getting next year), and that there is a good chance that I would be sidelined (for good) if I could not come up with an appropriate compromise with my work. It happens all the time and it would probably be very slow and very polite, but I would suffer. I have fought against this crap all my working life, being treated like a second-class employee due to my age (younger than my counterparts) or gender or not included in the old boys club etc and it's frustrating that it's still like that in about half the places I have worked in. I probably should be more resilient about it but I try to fight the sexism whenever I come across it, more fool me maybe!
I have never dealt with HR for anything really, not since my career started, I have worked in businesses without HR or been at such a level that my negotiations or issues are dealt with by the MD, so it's nice for me to have an HR resource here now who a) overtly supports my plan and stands up for fair treatment and b) has been through having kids and a career simultaneously and has some practical experience. Although she worried me when she said she had had similar 'non-PC' conversations in the business and hoped I was keeping notes of all such incidents! But that's her job, I guess. Plus, she's right.
Also, on the parenting front I believe wholeheartedly in equal parenting, it's how my son