It was messy, maddening and incredibly stressful, especially as I had no paperwork to back anything up, at a time when I felt financially vulnerable, knackered, and lacking in confidence after many months away from the office. This kind of experience is very common, and fighting it is harder than ever.
Had I gone back full-time I would have seen my baby, awake, for less than 23 hours a week. New government rules mean that mothers seeking to challenge maternity discrimination will have to pay £1,200 to bring their case to an employment tribunal.
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Even Yvette Cooper, the first government minister to take maternity leave while in office, struggled to maintain her pre-pregnancy work status after having her third child.
“Senior civil servants treated my maternity leave with hostility, making it hard to keep in touch, and trying to change my job and working arrangements while I was away,” she wrote in a newspaper this week.
“It starts as early as women being asked in job interviews whether they are married and whether they plan to have children, then progresses to women being openly told that they will be sidelined or looked over for particular jobs because they are considered a 'pregnancy risk' because of their sex and age,” explains Bates.
“Then finally we've heard from many women who experience difficulty trying to return to work – there are doubts about their ability to concentrate, accusations of having 'baby brain' and not being fully committed to projects, stories of managers telling them not to come in with 'leaky boobs', or cutting their hours or putting them on less important projects 'because your baby needs you' against their own wishes.” Women also regularly make the mistake of being too friendly and informal at work.
But when you’re negotiating over something as important as your career, Robson advises that you should keep it formal.