It’s time to talk about something pretty important. An issue that’s very close to the hearts of most bloggers – most bloggers write because they love to write and have something to say (yes there are the odd one or two that want ‘freebies’ that quite frankly don’t exist but that’s a whole other story) but a lot of us start because we love writing and have something to say and then, after putting the ground work in, dare to dream that we can make a living from home with the flexibility to attend school plays, finish early on Friday and fit work around family life.
If you like Instagram, (or let’s face it, she’s everywhere right now) you might have heard of Mother Pucka.
If not, let me introduce you to her and her campaign with one of her Instagram posts below:
Yes, indeed, we are back again. Had Derek from next door say “you’re a brave mite taking on this flexible working issue.” It’s 100% not bravery, it’s a raging hacked-off-ness packaged in Lycra and 80s lyrics. Like, beneath the gurning smiles and jazz hands lies a really angry little vole 🐭😠who has been trodden on one too many times. This is why the vole went feral 😬: 54,000 mothers are forced out of their job every year (either made redundant on maternity leave or refused flexible working and given no other option). This costs British employers £280 million pounds every year. Over half of mothers who get flexible working requests approved report shitty consequences as a direct result – perhaps they are faced with the same workload after a four day week had been agreed (paid less to work more 👀); they also face a subtext from every corner that they are ‘slacking’, which leads to promotions being overlooked at every turn. Then there’s the whopping 70% of employers that reckon pregnant women should say they are knocked up or thinking about it during an interview. The reason? So they can employ the next person who comes along without a desire to pop a sprog. Usually someone with a wanger 🍆. AND let’s hear it for the dad’s. Half of millennial working fathers (47%) want to downshift to a less stressful job because they cannot balance the demands of work and family life. Essentially the current archaic system – “men should be the breadwinner! 🍞🏆” – means they have to leave the burden of childcare to the mothership 🚀. A mother who has to work similar hours, perhaps and, yet, still scramble across town in rush hour to pick the brood up and be responsible for bathtime/teatime Armageddon. All in all it’s – and I’ll go with a polite British finish – less than ideal. Let’s do more than talk about flex, baby 👶🏻 #flexappeal #parentingtheshitoutoflife #motherpukka **All stats from the Equality and Human Rights Commission Working Forward pledge report. The following companies have signed the pledge to change the above: @ford @nationwide @johnlewisretail @bp_plc @virginmoney. What can you do? Get your company to sign up and change this blather**
Mother Pucka, or Anna as she may have once been known as, has created a movement – a wave of change, sweeping over the country, to Westminster non the less. This powerhouse of a woman has brought the subject of flexible working (and the lack thereof) into the public arena and is fighting with all her might to get things changed.
There is no way that I can tell you about this issue comprehensively and do it and Anna justice. To learn more, get inspired and start to make change yourself, visit motherpucka.co.uk and follow her on Instagram.
What I can do, is tell you my story.
When I first saw that Mother Pucka was taking this issue on, I thought it was fabulous and so very important and something that I wanted to support – I really want to go to one of the Flash Mob’s, the last being at Trafalger Square and was filmed by the BBC although I think I’d look like a bit of a tit on my crutches but, although I want to get involved, I didn’t really think that it was an issue that affected me.
I’m a single mum on benefits (yes, cliché, bring on the hate) but I am trying to build this very blog to help me stand on my own two feet. I am trying to create my own job, the only one that I can fit around my disabilities and I’m trying to stand on my own two feet.
By doing this, I have flexibility. I have what Anna is campaigning for everyone to have and so I didn’t think that I had anything personal to bring to this story and that my way to help, would be to shout from the roof tops and spread the word.
However, the more I read, the more I thought about it, the more that I realised that I had a story to share. It’s a little bit more complicated, but I realised that I was one of the statistics. I was made redundant, during pregnancy, and the bare bones reason was because I was pregnant.
I was actually sacked because I was pregnant, which is illegal and so the word ‘sacked’ was replaced with ‘redundant’, with immediate affect, but lets brush over that little bit of technical info, as my employers did.
So let me share what happened to me.
I was a qualified and very experienced Nanny, Maternity Nurse and troubleshooter for over 15 years. An agency that represented me, told me of a family with a very young baby and they were really struggling. They wanted someone to come in and troubleshoot on a short-term basis.
I was offered the position and on day one, found out what the problems were and set out a plan to overcome these. When it came to the end of the contract, I was asked to stay on, long-term, employed as their son’s Nanny. I accepted and settled into my routine of working for them 2 days a week and my other family that employed me 3 days a week. It’s important to note that I was employed – the families paid my tax and national insurance, produced wage slips and paid employers contributions. I wasn’t self-employed or paid under the table. I was a professional career Nanny.
After being employed for 10 months / a year with this new baby family and 7 months after my wedding, I plucked up the courage to tell them that I was 14 weeks pregnant. They were really happy for me and I told them that I wanted to work up to my due date, as close as was possible.
I’m not sure how long after I told the family that I was pregnant that it was, but they approached me and said that if I wanted to return to work after I had my baby and bring my baby with me, and raise him alongside their son on those two days a week, I could.
I was so happy as this was the agreement I had with my 3 day a week family and it meant that I could return to work, earn a full-time wage, and raise my child with no childcare expense or worries.
I lived with this dream situation as my future, for 5 short weeks.
At 19 weeks pregnant, to the day, I woke up in agony and could not move. It was a bank holiday and so didn’t affect work but things didn’t improve and I ended up in hospital. I was off work for two weeks and I kept both of the family’s updated with the situation. It was determined that I had severe SPD (I also had a slipped disc in my back but that wasn’t diagnosed then as an MRI wasn’t recommended during pregnancy and the pain was just put down to my SPD)
The family that I worked for 3 days a week, had two boys of school age and they were incredibly generous to me and reduced my duties to the bare minimum so that I was able to return to work (which was my choice) despite that fact that I was on crutches.
I offered to return to work for the new baby family (he was now over a year old) and although I couldn’t be of much use to them, as the Mum worked from home, I thought that there may be a way to work something out and I wanted to offer them anything I could – be it filling the freezer with homemade meals for their son or simply playing with their son to enable her to work remotely and flexibly on the computer but cover the things I couldn’t do, such as putting him in the high chair etc.
I knew that I couldn’t fulfil my job role but I just wanted to offer as much as I could as I knew that they were struggling to cover my hours with temporary Nanny’s.
They declined my offer and suggested that I go off work ‘sick’ and I would receive statutory sick pay. I felt terrible – I was so upset to be letting them down as I am the type of person that puts myself last and would never take time off work unless there was no other choice. I respected their decision though – I had just wanted to offer whatever I could and also, I couldn’t really afford to take statutory sick pay. If I worked in an office, I could have continued working but due to the fact that they had a toddler, I couldn’t help them in any way.
I did wonder about my rights in this situation – if an employer cannot remove certain risks to a pregnant woman or offer them alternative suitable work, they are to suspend the employee on full pay, however, I knew that I should recover from the SPD in the weeks following the birth of my son and I didn’t want to jeopardise my job as I wanted to return to work after a couple of months maternity leave.
The situation caused me a huge amount of stress, worry and anxiety though. I was working for one family and that meant that I was meeting the conditions set out by the government, in order to qualify for my full Statutory Maternity Pay but the other family wanted me to go off work, sick and receive sick pay and normal pay at the same time.
Simply put, there is a ‘calculation period’ for Statutory Maternity Pay which is the 8 weeks / 2 months before the 15th week before the week of your due date. So, your earning’s in that calculation period, effect the rate of Statutory Maternity Pay that you will receive. So, if you are off work sick and receiving a lower salary ie: Statutory Sick Pay, within this period, you will receive a lower rate of Statutory Maternity Pay.
Here I am, and yes, I was off sick and receiving a reduced wage during this qualification period in this particularly job, however, it wasn’t my choice to be off sick – I had offered to return to work but my duties were not able to be reduced. I couldn’t afford to receive reduced maternity pay and it was also causing a lot of complications and questions with HMRC.
I developed Pre Natal Anxiety and I put the blame for this down to the situation with this job. I spent hours researching and phoning and trying to work out what on earth was going to happen and what my rights were.
I managed to get this family to let me take my accrued holiday days at full pay which took me to the end of the qualification period and then agreed to go off sick. It wasn’t ideal, but what else could I do?
My pregnancy continued and I kept in touch with this particular family, whilst working on reduced duties with my other family. I had a bit of a premonition but nothing prepared for what was coming next.
The newborn (now 1 yr old) family, told me that they had unfortunately changed their mind and had decided that they didn’t think it was suitable for me to return to work and bring my baby with me.
I was a little taken aback, but as that role was only 2 days a week, I weighed up my options and my parents offered to care for my son on those days so that I could continue to earn a full wage and so I told them that it was ok, I would be able to return to work without bringing my baby with me.
Yes, they were trying to get me to resign. They knew full well that they couldn’t legally ‘sack’ me whilst I was pregnant, due to a pregnancy related illness.
So, the letter arrived. I was in a huge amount of pain with SPD, I was suffering from and was indeed seeing my Dr about pre natal anxiety yet I was still working for my other, amazingly accommodating family – in fact I worked up until I was 35 weeks pregnant, which happened to be Christmas, and 4 weeks before my son was born.
The letter read that they had thought long and hard but they were making me redundant. They had decided that they were no longer going to have a nanny (despite having a temporary Nanny at the time of making me redundant and after this time) and that they were going to send their child to Nursery, therefore my job would no longer exist.
They were very clever. After months of anxiety, I was made redundant during pregnancy.
They also said that they had been very shocked that the person they trusted the most with the care of their son, could make such an error in judgement and think that they could care for their son whilst having to use crutches.
They did not meet with me, they did not see me in person to discuss my abilities or restrictions. I offered to come to work and do anything that they wanted me to do in order to help them out in any way after feeling so guilty for letting them down. I had suggested I cook meals for the freezer (as I did before my pregnancy, as part of my regular role, one day a week so that they always had one of my homemade meals to feed him when I wasn’t there) or be there to play with their son under the Mum’s supervision, just to help her be able to do some work if they were struggling to get adequate cover for my hours. They used my willingness to help to criticise me and as a reason to make me redundant.
I quote Anna from her Instagram posted linked above ^
“54,000 mothers are forced out of their job every year (either made redundant on maternity leave or refused flexible working and given no other option)”
That’s me. Yes my situation is complicated by pregnancy illness and my job role (I told you in the beginning that it was) but I realised that I had been personally affected by this issue.
That’s not the whole story of what Anna is campaigning about though – two days ago, Anna and her daughter went to the Petition’s Committee at the House of Commons to launch the first Mother Pucka Petition:
C’mon Parliament let us in. We’re on our way to the Petitions Committee this morning at the House of Commons to launch the first Mother Pukka petition. We are going with “Start the 30 hours free childcare from 6 months not 2 years.” The reason? Most mothers end up lopped out of the workforce straight after maternity leave when the mammaries are still leaky and the nursery bills are sky high ✈️ . That’s when we need the dollar; that’s when most parents go “feck this for a game of soldiers” 💂🏻after realising they are paying nearly an extra mortgage to send their kid to a stranger while they earn a crust. That’s the weak spot in the system. (At the same time we will be pushing for the government to ensure childcare providers are supported through this and not left frazzled and bankrupted – it’s an organic process with both sides working together 👯). But before we rubber stamp this puppy 🐶 please let us know what you would like to see changed. Our appointment is 9.15am. There’s always time for change. Btw this is a little girl we met on the Tube just now who was brilliantly doing a project at school on “action”. Her sign? “Feminist. I am a lover.” #positivechange #nextgeneration #doitforthekids #flexappeal #parentingtheshitoutoflife #motherpukka
So if you are a parent, even if you’ve got all that you want right now, get behind this. If you are thinking of becoming a parent, get behind this as it’s probably going to affect your future. If you have the type of job that means you could do your job just as well, without sitting at your designated desk and minus the endless commute – get behind this woman.
Oh and she’s doing all this at 30 weeks pregnant. Go Mother Pucka.