Maternity leave was in the news last week because of the way in which women can be discriminated against for having babies.
As a mother, I’ve had direct experience of one side of the maternity coin and can confirm that it’s tough giving up your career, even temporarily, and knowing that you may not be able to jump back aboard the work band-wagon where you left it.
However, I can also appreciate how incredibly irritating it is for employers, to have found somebody that they believe can do the job, only for that somebody to announce that actually, before they even get to grips with said job, they’ll be off for a year having a baby.
There’s no way around it – it’s annoying – but, on the other hand, it’s your right as a woman to return to your same job and your same hours, depending on your contract and so on. This does mean though that your employer doesn’t have to offer you part-time hours if you refuse the full-time that you may previously have worked.
I was pregnant with my youngest daughter within a short time of starting a new job, and the pregnancy was extremely difficult, thereby requiring time off. I’ll never forget how awkward I felt or the sense of having let people down. But nor will I ever forget when my head of faculty recommended me for a pay-rise, before I was pregnant, because I’d done such a good job – and the male head of another department had received a pay-rise for doing similar. When the pay proposal was put forward to the male boss, he said that it wouldn’t happen for me, because I was a ‘woman and bound to get pregnant again’.
Pregnancy isn’t always planned, and even when it is, it doesn’t often go according to that plan. It’s such a thorny issue because nor is it always a case of having worked somewhere for a substantial period proving your worth, giving due warning or expectation that you’ll try for a child, and then surprising nobody and letting no-one down once you are pregnant. As with all forms of discrimination, you can never fully eradicate it – but you should certainly keep trying, at the very least.
Don’t rock the boat…
My husband is naturally sporty and is accustomed to success in whatever endeavor he turns his hand to.
Imagine our surprise therefore, and terror, when it transpired, once we were adrift, that he can’t row for toffee.
The sight of my husband waggling a pair of oars ineffectually, whilst the children gripped the swaying boat white-knuckled for dear life, and the bemusement (or amusement) of the families waiting on shore for their turn, will stay with me for some time.
It took us 6 minutes to make it approx 10 yards from the jetty, as a mother in another boat flew by like Steve Redgrave, and another 20 minutes to return to terra firma.
It couldn’t come soon enough.
By the time this goes to print, the Paralympics will have commenced. I only know this because my husband and I have been keeping an eye out for when they start, as we have been looking forward to watching. (Especially the rowing eh, Mr Lush? Ha.)
After an Internet search, I learnt not only the start date but that also very few tickets have been sold, with very little publicity. This seems shameful yet unsurprising because, as we know, most of the seating was woefully empty at this summer’s Olympics, so the Paralympics will most likely follow suit.
A campaign, #filltheseats, has been launched with seats going for as little as £2.30. Let’s hope the last minute publicity push is successful.
First published in The Portsmouth News, Saturday 10th September 2016