Turned down for part-time role: ask the expert

I went on maternity last year. I then gave birth to my beautiful daughter in December 2012 and since then I have enjoyed every second of my maternity leave hassle free. I have kept in contact ith my Manager and work colleagues to retain that bound and to keep up to date with what has been going on in the office. I took a year off and was due to resume to work in November 2013. In August 2013 my partner and I decided that it would benefit our family is I could work part time, so we put in an application for flexible working. I work 37 hours a week Monday till Friday and I was asking to work 4 days a week and 30 hours or 4 days a week and 31 hours or continue to work full time but be taken out of the late rota so I can leave at 4:35 instead of 5pm, which we do every 3/4 weeks. My meeting was held with my manager and we spoke about my request and after that meeting took place I received a reply declining my application. I then appealed their decision and put a final option to work 32.40 hours over 4 days, which was still declined. After that had all happened I then applied for a full-time recruitment administrator position, which didn’t involve travelling to different sites or as tight deadlines to my current position. I wasn’t even given an interview because they said I didn’t have recent recruitment experience, even though I have over 10 years’ HR experience and have dealt with recruitment in most of my roles and was also a recruitment consultant. Since returning to work I have found out the person they have taken on does not have a HR background and has very little recruitment experience. After that position my dream part time position came up, working in my team and reporting to my manager. It would have involved me working 3 days a week for 22 hours. I was interviewed for the post on my return to work in November. I was then told that I was not successful and that another member of my team was (who currently cannot do their current position due to having a bad back). The feedback I have received is they gave better answers to the questions they asked. That’s all the feedback I have received. I was absolutely disappointed and cried in front of the Manager who told me I didn’t get the job and all they could say to me was they were sorry. I then left the office for 30 minutes to speak with my partner and calm myself down. I then returned to my work and continued working till the end of the day, but could not concentrate, nor did I want to stay. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t give me the position, when they knew how much I wanted to go part time. I felt lost and like I had let down my family. Normally I am a headstrong women who has a clear path, but I feel lost.  I was then signed off with stress and anxiety for a week. I have requested to sit down with my manager and discuss how I feel. Any advice is much appreciated. I’m starting to feel the only thing I can do is leave and I do feel like I am being pushed to leave.

I am sorry to hear you are having such a tough time! When flexible working applications are rejected, it must be due to one of several specific reasons or the rejection may be unlawful – are you happy that the grounds for your rejection were valid?
For the other roles you applied for, it may genuinely be that you were not the best candidate, but from what you’ve said that could be doubtful. Feedback that someone else ‘gave better answers’ is no feedback at all. Ask for specific information about how you did (not how the other candidate did) – so what answers did you give that were inadequate, how could they have been better, what particular concerns did the recruitment panels have etc. Point out that you need this information to improve for next time, but also to satisfy yourself that their decisions have been objectively justified. If not, you may potentially have grounds for a discrimination case, as maternity is one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act.
Also be honest with your manager about how you’re feeling, the impact it is having on your health as well as your personal circumstances, & your concerns that there could be some other reasons underlying their recent decisions, & that you feel your employer’s actions may potentially be putting you in a situation where your position with them is untenable. If they are effectively pushing you to leave, this could be grounds for a constructive dismissal claim.
You don’t want to sound litigious though, so also say that you really want to  stay with them & be able to do a suitable job to the best of your ability, & ask what they can suggest (even albeit on a temporary basis) to meet both your needs & the needs of the business. Also don’t forget that you are still entitled to parental leave, so ask about that as well & make the most of that for extra time with your child when you need it. Good luck!

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