This is something which I think should be told. Mainly so that if you are going through it, then you know that you are not alone and that there can be a positive end to a horrible beginning. It happened seven years ago now, which seems like a lifetime ago.
When I finished working in prison, I went into a stream of temporary jobs through an agency. I ended up temping at a lovely little company, not far from home and I was happy there. I hadn't been there long before they advertised for the position I was covering. I applied, got an interview, along with others, and was offered the job.
I was very happy. It wasn't a long commute, the staff seemed really nice and I enjoyed the work I was doing. I mucked in and helped in most departments and generally enjoyed working there. The 'office' I was in was a storage room, but I didn't let that bother me. I took my lunch break every day and often studied law during that break (I was doing an A level at the time).
Three months into the job I discovered I was pregnant. It was fairly unexpected, but my husband and I were very pleased. Unfortunately, two weeks later, at around 7 weeks, I suffered a miscarriage. I was devastated.
I had been so excited about the future with our baby. We had been married for three years and it felt so right. My work gave me time off, but I ended up going in before the end of the sick note the doctor had given me, because I sensed that work disapproved of me having time off.
When I returned to work the atmosphere had changed. My main manager was fine with me, but his manager was completely distant. In fact, a week after my return he pretty much stopped speaking to me. It was at this time that I was given an official warning about the standard of my work.
I was shocked. I had worked incredibly hard and really enjoyed the job. I asked for a meeting with my manager. He was lovely and said that it was all nonsense and that he was happy with my work and could see how hard I was working. So I was utterly stumped when, only a week later, I was handed my notice and told to leave the premises immediately. I was gutted. Absolutely gutted.
I knew that I had been treated incredibly unfairly and I was pretty sure it was to do with me having been pregnant because I knew I had worked very hard. Given that I was studying law, I went straight to a solicitor to ask him for advice.
The first thing he told me was that I should check if I was covered for family legal protection on my home insurance. I was, which meant that employment disputes were covered. I sent letters to the company disputing my dismissal and asked for a tribunal.
The company hadn't followed the correct procedures in the way they dismissed me, so I was confident that I would be reinstated. I was wrong. The tribunal was horrible. They laid into me and made up all sorts of lies about me.
I sat there sobbing, a dictaphone recording my tears as I tried to hold it together. It was no longer about just having a miscarriage. It was about me. They were making things up about me, lying about me, belittling me, making me question whether or not what they were saying was true. All because they didn't want me to work there. In actual fact, if they had just said they had fired me for having a miscarriage, I would have been more understanding. It was unjust and unfair. Working in the prison I had been bullied and in a previous job I was walked over. This was my turning point. I'd had enough.
Eventually I had to start proceedings to take them to court because they continued to be completely unreasonable. It was a tough decision and I knew that it wasn't going to be an easy ride. I am not going to lie, this was one of the most horrific times of my life. I was constantly having to relive a horrible event and each letter they sent me was more upsetting. At least with a solicitor helping, I felt like I was not alone. My barrister was also really helpful. I started proceedings in the September and started temping again at the same time. In December I was was employed as a temp in the local hospital, where I ended up staying until last month when I was made redundant. A whole six years!
The Consultant I worked for knew what was going on and that I would need some time off for court proceedings at some point in the future. He was fantastic, totally supportive and understanding. I slowly began to feel confident in myself again. It really helped, because it didn't take long for the company to get really nasty. They "interviewed" my old colleagues without telling them that they were going to be witness statements. Luckily I read one of these statements to a friend who said they had never said that. Thankfully, they were willing to sign a document saying that the witness statement was made up of twisted words. This was one of many things which the company invented. Luckily we had proof for most of these stages.
In April the following year, very nearly 12 months since I had been fired, we had a court date. I was ready and wanted justice. Unfortunately, because my home insurance had covered my costs, we knew that if we were offered a 'reasonable' settlement before the court date then we would have to accept it. The court date was set for the Monday morning, but on the Friday afternoon, we received that 'reasonable' offer. I was a bit gutted. I was totally geared up for a battle. But it was over. Completely over.
It was a long, drawn out and painful process, which I wouldn't hesitate to repeat if I was unfortunate enough to be in this position again. If this has happened to you then I am so, so sorry. I strongly believe that the more we stand up to such injustice, the less it will happen.
Siân is a 31 year old mum of two who juggles motherhood with full-time study at university.
Blogs at: You're not from around here