When someone announces their pregnancy, you never hear about the potentially mind-numbing journey it took to get there. We had both a couple of health niggles that put us at a higher risk of not being able to conceive quickly. So, after months and months of discussions, my partner and I decided to stop preventing pregnancy in November 2021. Less than two weeks later, we had a positive pregnancy test in our hands. It was crazy how quickly it all happened.
But before falling pregnant with my first child I was extremely worried about how it would impact my career. With worries such as rising childcare costs and limited maternity pay, I feared that my working life would be different with a child.
I felt some relief when I discovered that having a baby does not change your employment rights. In the UK, all pregnant employees are protected by law. This means your employer must offer at least 52 weeks of maternity leave and your job back at the end of your leave. As a pregnant person, you also have the right to ask for changes to your hours, days or place of work on return from maternity leave.
When I returned to work after the Christmas break, I was initially quite worried to tell my employer. While I knew my legal rights, I also knew that many working mothers face indirect discrimination from their employers. Whether they are not considered for promotions or not offered flexible working conditions and hours. Either way, it's clear that there is a huge stigma surrounding mothers and their capabilities upon return to work. I held off having the conversation until I was around 10 weeks pregnant. My baby bump was growing very quickly so there wasn’t any more putting it off. My line manager was lovely and celebrated with me as I shared my news.
At that point, I was explained my rights to pay, leave and support from my workplace throughout my pregnancy and beyond. We casually spoke about my plans for the future, but I expressed that any of my plans could change depending on how my pregnancy, birth and baby are. They happily agreed.
Despite having such a positive first experience, I was still worried about how we would afford our new addition of statutory maternity pay. With that in mind, I planned to return to work as quickly as I could.
Fast forward two months and I was now 17 weeks pregnant. I was working in the office as usual and nothing had really changed other than a couple of maternity appointments every now and then. When a life-changing situation, like a pregnancy, come up, it almost feels like everything else in your life is on the back burner. That’s definitely how I felt with my career. I wanted to get maternity leave out of the way and then look at how to forward my career further. That’s why I was surprised when my line manager sat me down to discuss my annual salary review one day. While I knew the review was approaching, I had assumed it wouldn’t be seriously addressed due to the fact I would be going off in only a few months.
As the discussion went on, my line manager and I came to a reasonable increase in my salary. They stated that despite my pregnancy, I had taken on more duties and responsibilities throughout the year so it was deserved.
I felt really silly for assuming that my workplace would judge me so harshly for deciding to have a baby because the only narrative we hear is that pregnant people and working mothers are indirectly discriminated against by their workplace.
About six weeks later, a colleague of mine left their role. My manager approached me asking if I would be open to progressing into their role. Again, this increased my salary, position and duties. We spoke back and forth on the promotion for a while, but in the end I decided to go for it.
I’m very aware of the fact that my situation is not that of others, and in fact, I am probably in the minority. Even with that in mind, it does show how pregnant people and working mothers are as capable as their male and non-parent colleagues.
Unfortunately, even in 2022, many mothers who plan on returning to work after maternity leave have to face a range of challenges before heading back to the grind, including navigating childcare and school closures, change of working hours and loss of pay. Organistations such as Pregnant Then Screwed work support mothers returning to work and advocate for greater maternity rights.
Deciding to start or expand your family does not change your ability to perform at work. It certainly should not hold you back from reaching your desired career path.