Maternity leave discrimination: five women tell their stories

Each year 54,000 women face bullying or betrayal when they return to work from maternity leave. The Pregnant Then Screwed campaign gives women a place to share their stories anonymously

A new report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggests that each year 54,000 women are forced out of work after having a baby. The Pregnant Then Screwed campaign allows women to anonymously submit their stories of pregnancy discrimination. Here are five such stories:


“Until last month, I worked for a big company for almost 11 years, moving up to quite a senior position, doing a job that I loved, and was good at. I reduced my hours to part-time hours (still four days per week) after my first maternity leave, with no problems at all and never any complaints about the reduced hours.

The day my second child turned six months, while I was still on maternity leave, I was told that my role was now redundant, and that they were replacing the role with a full-time position, with a slightly different name, changing some of the job description, but exactly the role I had been doing until I went on leave. I was told I could apply for the role, but was strongly discouraged from doing so – and was told, not in so many words, that I wouldn’t get it. This in itself is upsetting, but could be put down to a business need, however, it was clear that the role requirements for the new role fitted exactly the skills of my maternity cover. I had recruited this person myself thinking she would be a good caretaker for the role, and had made it clear to all that I fully intended to return to work. This person has since interviewed for the role and (unsurprisingly) been successful.

This has been a really difficult thing to deal with while adjusting to a new way of family life, and I am very sad to have left a role and a team that I loved, and a company that I worked hard for for a long time – I’m also disappointed in myself for not fighting harder for a role that I wanted to keep, and for letting the company get away with this so that they can do it to other women who are pregnant or on maternity leave. I knew that it would be a long, drawn-out process to contest this, that I couldn’t handle while dealing with a new baby – and they knew that too so felt they could just throw me away and employ someone cheaper who I had actually found for them.

Thanks to this company, my last few months on leave with my daughter are tainted with having the worry of unemployment and spending time looking for a job when I should be enjoying time with her.”


“My employers discriminated against me from the moment I told them I was pregnant.

I work at hourly rate, not a salary and they tried to cut my pay by £1.50 an hour due to pregnancy related sickness.

Then they tried to cut my hours, and when I objected they told me they would force me to take maternity leave at 28 weeks pregnant, even though I hadn’t been sick for over a month.

When I finally took my maternity leave at 36 weeks pregnant, they told me they had misplaced my Mat B1 form and couldn’t pay my statutory maternity pay without it.

All this left me so stressed and worried thinking I wouldn’t have the money to support my child, I went into premature labour the day after my employer told me they had lost the Mat B1 form.”


“I told my manager that I’d be going through IVF treatment and might need a day or two off, which I would take using my annual leave. Within weeks they were telling me my performance had dropped and they took away my £10k bonus which makes up a lot of my salary and this was before I even started IVF treatment.

The pressure was really on as I had to work twice as hard through a difficult treatment process to prove my worth.

I then went on to have a miscarriage a month later due to the stress and I took one day off to recover because I was so worried about losing my job.

Im about to go through another cycle as a restructure begins. As I’m on a ‘developing in role’ rating they can make me redundant with no questions asked.”


“The biggest mistake I made was to tell my boss that I was two months pregnant, [from then on] I was pressurised to have an abortion. When I refused he promised to put me on the poverty line … I was then subjected to a series of trumped up disciplinary charges and put under immense stress to quit. [I was] interrogated about the alleged misconduct at length in a hot room without water with the full knowledge of HR. [They] stated that if I fainted it would be considered a disciplinary matter …

I was humiliated in meetings and was pushed to take early maternity and provided with wrong information to ensure I did not get any payments. My boss told me I looked like an elephant, fat and ugly. HR came to my house and promised me another job but I was then made redundant and forced to sign a compromise agreement and am not allowed to reveal this true horror story.”


“One of my team applied for a temporary promotion. She was eminently suitable for the position so, in line with our internal policy at the time, I endorsed her application. I knew she was pregnant but she had asked me to keep it to myself.

After interviews there were two candidates in the frame for the post, my nominee and another. I was asked by my manager if I thought she would be suitable for the post. I said honestly that I thought she would be an excellent choice. My team member was offered the promotion, however, I was told afterwards that I should have made my manager aware of her pregnancy (broken a confidence – against company policy) or not recommended her for the post (in other words, lied).

There is no doubt in my mind that, had I made my boss aware of the pregnancy, the other candidate would have been offered the job. As a matter of interest, up to that time I was identified as having high potential. After the event I noticed a change in the opportunities offered to me. I was labelled as being “unreliable”, not “corporate” enough. Incidentally, the lady in question made a brilliant success of her promotion and on her return from maternity leave has been promoted twice.”

All names have been changed in this article


Harriet Minter

The GuardianTramp

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