Katherine Tinoco on losing her job after maternity leave during Covid and how she helps other women to feel good through her Peruvian dance company.
This week’s Women and Equalities Committee report highlighted concerns about the challenges women are facing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
One person who has personal experience of the impact is Katherine Tinoco. She is an HR expert and was due to return to her role from maternity leave in August 2020. Katherine, who has 13 years’ experience in HR, was well aware of negative attitudes towards new mums in some workplaces before she went on leave. That and being from a minority group – Katherine is Peruvian – made her worried about her job security after maternity leave.
She felt she had to prove her commitment and show that it would not be affected by her pregnancy. She worked right up to her due date – leaving on a Friday and giving birth the following Monday. She used her Keeping in Touch days during her leave and invested in a nanny so she could focus on her job when she returned. She felt she was doing everything she could to show that she was able to work full time. “I really wanted to keep the job”, she says.
However, shortly after returning from maternity leave, Katherine left the company having negotiated a confidential agreement which means she cannot talk about the circumstances of her departure. The timing affected her being able to get a mortgage and also made her anxious about her ability to renew her residency permit because of the minimum salary requirements.
Fortunately, though, she was able to find a new job within a few weeks, ironically covering for a woman who just came back from maternity. Although the HR job is not permanent, she has since been able to get approval for her mortgage and get her residence visa renewed
Katherine has since been asked for advice by several women in the Latina community who have lost their jobs due to Covid and has been happy to help. She is well aware how much pregnancy and maternity discrimination destroys people’s confidence and self esteem. She says: “I was finally able to understand the difficulties that a woman can face after having a baby.” The whole experience of 2020 made her very anxious about her future and she has had weekly calls with a mental health expert as a result on how to keep motivated.
One thing which has boosted her confidence is her dance business, but even that has not been without problems. Katherine set up her Peruvian dance company, ArtPerUK, in early 2020, having invested some of her maternity pay in it. She had anticipated starting classes in March, but then Covid happened so she didn’t get any initial return on her investment.
As a new entrepreneur and a minority with visa restrictions affecting funding and benefits, she also missed out on government support. But that didn’t stop her and she was able to give more than 151 online lessons in 2020 to keep her motivated during those difficult times and to help other women with the same passion for dance and an interest in Peruvian culture. She says: “Dance has helped me recover my confidence and help others.”
Katherine has been delivering dance classes to Latino organisations and community groups. She says: “I love to dance and I am proud of my Peruvian heritage. Through dance I aim to improve people’s wellbeing and make them aware of Peruvian culture. That makes me feel good. We dance, have fun and stay fit at the same time.”
Through her links to women in business she hears about many other women entrepreneurs who have missed out on government support during Covid or who are struggling with childcare responsibilities while working at the same time. She has since been doing all she can to advise other Latina women on their rights and on available support. “I know about employment law, but many others don’t. I want to help,” she says.