Bullying during pregnancy: ask the expert

I have worked at the same company for 8 1/2 years and throughout this time was promoted to a senior position within the branch – I asked to attend a Supervisors course back in 2006 and have this on email, but it never materialised. Others within the branch were sent on these courses and fast tracked through promotion and were promoted to my managers early last year as soon as I became pregnant. I have been subjected to what I see as a campaign of humiliation and bullying and I have had no support from the management. Indeed I have been told off when I have complained about attacks. I was in tears at work every day. I advised that I feared this was all just an excuse to remove me from my job, but this was dismissed.  Now I am on annual leave before taking my maternity leave and on the 2nd day of my annual leave I received an e-mail from the HR dept advising me to urgently contact work and that due to streamlining processes 4 people in the branch need to become 3, and that I am one of those affected, that I have to attend a meeting while on annual leave and that the decision will be made in 2 weeks. I do not know if I have a case but I have been through so much stress and heartache because of all this (since I became pregnant) and now there will only be 3 people anyway as I am on maternity leave until next year so this just seems like the opportunity they have been waiting for to use as an excuse to get rid of me.

Pregnant person sitting down holding bump whilst tapping on a laptop


Perceived bullying during pregnancy can be very traumatic.

The first point that I would raise is that it would be best to sit down with a solicitor and discuss all of the particulars of your complaint. However, I have set out my response below:

An employer has the right to make you redundant whilst you are on maternity leave. However, the reason for you being selected for redundancy cannot be on the grounds of your pregnancy. However, from the comments that they have made to you it sounds as though they are following the correct process in that they are evaluating all 4 employees and will then confirm which employee is at risk of redundancy, which as you say is likely to be you as you are likely to score poorer than others due to being in receipt of a written warning. Even though you are on maternity leave the Company are still required to consult with you and should be more flexible with places to meet or whether to hold such meetings over the telephone. The other special right as a pregnant employee is that if there are any suitable alternative roles you should be given priority.

In relation to your complaint about your colleagues, did you raise them as formal grievances or did you simply make a verbal complaint? If it was a grievance I consider that you should respond/raise another grievance to HR about the swearing incident and set out that you raised a grievance and they have not responded to this in the appropriate manner as per their grievance policy and that they have failed to follow the grievance policy due to your pregnancy.

There is the potential that you have suffered sex or pregnancy-related discrimination, but to be able to advise as to whether you have prospects with your case I would need more detailed information.

It may be that if you raise enough complaint about potential discrimination and appeal the redundancy decision (if you are made redundant) you may be able to negotiate with the Company to reach an enhanced redundancy package.

Comments [3]

  • Anonymous says:

    why would people bully them when they know it could cause them to lose the baby ?

  • Anonymous says:

    I recently had a missed miscarriage after suffering a fall at work due to neglect. I was having an extreme amount of pressure put on me. I had low blood pressure and was told by the doctors I needed to be having regular breaks to sit down, and have a drink and something to eat. I was only sitting down for 5 minutes every 2/3 hours but got told by my manager that " you can't do that! It's unfair on the other employees if you get extra breaks" I informed him that I had been told by my doctor that I needed to have regular breaks. But he still said I was not allowed to. I was working in the bakery section at the time and with no ventilation it was reaching temperatures of over 45 degrees Celsius and as a result I was getting very hot and dizzy, and started to feel faint most days.
    I requested to be moved to come out of the bakery into another area of the store as I should not be overheating on a daily basis while pregnant, but my request was refused. As it came to summer it got worse and worse, I found I could only be in the bakery for several hours before I felt I was about to faint.

    I was 18 weeks pregnant and I finished in the bakery early one morning and was asked to work on the shop floor helping with the delivery. They wanted me to put out heavy crates of wines on my own while other colleagues put out other stock. I reminded them that I can't lift anything heavy and could I please put out some other stock,(as there was still lots of other stock that needed to be put out that day.) Their response was "Just try to manage with the wines, I want them to go out first." After doing that. They then asked me to go on the till for an hour. The air conditioning in the shop was broken at the time and it was about 35 degrees Celsius! As it was a very hot summer. It got to about 2 hours on the till before I started to feel very dizzy. I rung the bell at the till for someone to come and let me off. A colleague came and said "I'm busy at the moment someone is going to let you off in a minute". I explained I was feeling very sick and dizzy, however she just sighed and repeated "someone is going to let you off in a minute, you can't just leave the till." I waited and waited after another hour someone finally came. I just made it out the back before I fainted and fell on my side. When I came conscious again, I felt that something was wrong. I told my assistant manager I think something is wrong with the baby and she tried to reassure me saying "I'm sure everything is fine." They said they were not going to call an ambulance as it wasn't necessary, they called the manager to let him know what happened as he wasn't in the store at the time and his response was " is she still going to finish her shift." They agreed I could leave, and a friend drove me home.
    The next day I went to he doctors and told them what had happened. She said my blood pressure was very low, however she refused to check the baby's heartbeat. she said "I don't have the equipment to do that here, I doubt a fall would have done anything, you're not having falls on a regular basis are you?" I said I wasn't and it was just this one time, and felt stupid for coming to the doctors, if a fall during pregnancy can't really do anything. 2 weeks later I had my 20 week scan and was told my baby had died at 18 weeks. I was heartbroken and angry because I knew exactly what had caused it to happen. My fall at work.
    I was told as I was so far along I could not have an operation to remove the baby, I would have to be induced and naturally deliver the baby. The idea of having to deliver my dead baby was traumatising and terrifying. 2 days later my partner and I went to hospital to be induced to deliver the baby. I couldn't believe what was happening the whole experience was the worse thing I have ever had to go though in my life. I went home 2 days later. I was in pain for 2 weeks and barely able to get out of bed. Four days after I came out of hospital a colleague called me and said "the manager wants to know when Your coming back to work, your out of hospital now." I explained that I was in an extreme amount of pain and could barely move. They were not happy about my response at all and implied I was exaggerating how bad things were. After 2 weeks I went to the doctors as i was told I would be sore and in a bit of pain for a few days after I come out of hospital but I thought it would be starting to get better by now. I was still in a state of shock and depression over what had happened.the doctor told me I had a severe womb and uterus infection and it would take several weeks to clear. I was signed off work for a month. After 2 weeks I physically started to feel better but was unable to cope emotionally. I was unable to drive or do much at all as I could not focus properly on anything. Everything was making me cry and I felt unable to leave the flat in case I saw any babies or children because I knew I would just break down completely if I did. After 2 weeks of physically being better the infection came back again and I went back to the doctors and was signed off for another month. It took several weeks for the infection to clear. 8 weeks after I had come out the the hospital we had a funeral for our baby. After which I remained very upset and depressed and could barely function for several weeks. Several more weeks passed and started to feel I was coping better and I felt I would be able to return to work. I informed them of the date I could start back and asked if I could start just working 3 days a week for a couple of weeks before coming straight back to full time. However I was told "if you want to have a phased return to work it must be over one week," even though the doctor had given me a note to say I needed a phased return to work over 3 weeks, they refused to acknowledge it and I had to do a one week phased return to work, which was really too much for me. But I had to try and just accept it. A month later I discovered I was pregnant again and I asked to come out of the bakery, this time after some reluctance they accepted.

    I am now currently 21 weeks pregnant. Several of my colleagues were very positive and congratulated me. However the manager and a couple of other colleagues reaction was completely different. When the manager was told his reaction was "oh for f***s sake, AGAIN!" Which made me very unhappy as I felt I was going to be treated the same way again. I assumed after what happened last time, they would be more considerate about the way they treat me while I am pregnant. I was wrong. Everyday I have to deal with several colleagues asking me to lift heavy items or reach things high up on the top shelf. Only to follow the request with a sarcastic "oh that's right you cant, your pregnant!" Or the daily comment of "what's the point in you being here" and "is there anything you can do." Making me feel useless, when in fact I am being given triple the amount of jobs that everyone else has to do and less time to do them in. Even if I finish everything faster they they though I would I get told, "we'll you must of missed things" or "you didn't do it properly then." Even after having my work checked and finding nothing wrong, I get told "oh we'll that's a miracle you actually did something." Even though this happens everyday.

    I now have very low blood pressure and have been getting extreme dizziness, blurred vision and hearing distortion and feeling as if I'm about the faint. I have been given a note from my doctor to say I should not be left on the till standing still for more than half an hour and a chair should be provided, as standing still causes my blood pressure to drop dramatically and I am likely to faint. I have been told by the manager that I can't have a chair as it is "unfair on the other employees" and to make it fair for everyone else I am now the only one responsible for answering the bell and helping on the till when it's busy, as I can't be on the till on my own for an hour or two like other members of staff have to do. However our shop is very busy so the bell is constantly ringing. I get told to do a job and they say "that should only take you half an hour". However if the bell rings and there is a constant queue of customers I end up being on the till for 20 minutes or more. They then say "god you haven't even finished that job yet" and when I say, "sorry but I was stuck on the till for the last 20 minutes." They reply with "sure you were" they then go and ask the other person on the till how long I was on there, and if it's another of my group of bullies, they will just lie and look all smug and "no she was only here for 2 minutes" and I get told off for "sitting around doing nothing" when in truth I have barely even had a chance to sit down all day.
    They then report to the manager that I have not been doing any work and I get shouted at. The manager is making it worse as when the bell goes he says "don't get that, go and find lucy and make her go" so I spend most of my day running backwards and forwards to get the bell. If I don't hear it, or I start to feel dizzy and need to sit down for a minute, and the bell goes, then, instead of someone else just answering the bell and going on the till, they all run around the shop trying to find me and shout at me for not answering the bell and get told yet again I am useless.

    I am a good employee and I do more work than anyone else would ever be expected to do, and I don't think I deserve to be treated this way. I have no idea what I'm supposed to do. I have worked for the store for almost 6 years now. And this has only started since I've been pregnant. I feel they are doing this on purpose in the hope that I lose my baby again, which is very upsetting for me. The worst part is, that the manager is the one ring leading the small group of bullies and when I have tried to contact head office to tell them what was happening, all they did was call the manager. He told them the bullying was nothing to do with him and everything has been resolved and handled within the store. When I rung back to inform them that it hadn't been resolved I was told I have to let my manager handle the situation now. Which is useless as he is he one doing the bullying.

    I have started to have severe stabbing pains and I have recently gone to the doctors and after explaining what was happening was immediately signed off work as she said that the pressure and working environment is very unsafe for me and the baby to be in. However I discovered after my missed miscarriage I used all my sick pay and I will now only get £330 a month statutory sick pay, which doesn't even cove half the mortgage. My fiancé is trying to cover as much as he can of the mortgage and bills. But until I actually go on maternity, which I'm not allowed to do until 36 weeks. I can't get any other financial support and we don't have enough money between us to pay for everything.

    The doctor says I am not fit to work and wants to sign me off for the rest of my pregnancy, but I can't live on £330 a month with a mortgage, bills, food and other expenses to pay for. We have cut down on everything and still it is not enough. Is they any financial help I can get for the next 3 months until my maternity leave?

    If not I will be forced to go back to work and I feel if I do I will lose my baby again. Someone please help.

    Editor: Please contact http://www.turn2us.org.uk asap. They will be able to advise you on any financial help that might be available to you.  They are also linked to Elizabeth Finn Care which offers grants to people who have been overcome by circumstances, such as family breakdown, redundancy, injury, physical or mental illness –http://www.elizabethfinncare.org.uk/About_us

  • says:

    Hi, I need a bit of advice. I have been working for my current employer now for nearly a year. My job at the moment is ideal as it’s 10 minutes away in the car, and if anything goes wrong with the car, I could easily walk to work. I take my children up to my mum’s in the morning, so she can take them to school. Then drive to work. I then drive home on my dinner hour so my hubby can have the car to pick the kids up (currently sharing a car as his is off the road). He then takes me back to work and picks me back up at 6pm when I finish, then has to go to work himself for 6.30pm.

    The problem is, my work has asked me to relocate to another branch 10-15 miles away. Which as above I just simply could not do. Have told them it’s to do with childcare issues, hubby’s work and travel. The thing is the lad that I work with actually lives about 5-10 mins away from the branch where they want me to move to and doesn’t have any kids. Can they do this?

    They are just telling me that both branches want different skills. I personally don’t think this is fair as I have worked there longer. I have approached our HR dept, but haven’t heard anything as such yet.

    Have told them that I don’t want to relocate as it’s easier for me, and I love working where I’m working. Otherwise I’ll have to look at looking somewhere else to work altogether. Don’t they have to be lenient in a way when you are working parents?

    Editor: Legally, your employer must consult you if they are changing your work location and gain your agreement.  I am unclear if your problem over the move is mainly a temporary one, due to the car share or an ongoing one, though. Is there some potential here for negotiation over when the relocation takes place, for instance? You don’t have any particular rights regarding relocation as a working parent, but you can negotiate if you believe that the move is unreasonable.

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