Redundancy to resilience: my maternity leave story

In this blog, Jodie Loftus, Flexible Working Advocate & EVP Consultant at Flexa, shares her experience of being made redundant on maternity leave.

10th Apr 2024

Each year, around 54,000 women are made redundant on maternity leave in the UK. This statistic is absolutely mind blowing.

At a time where you're most vulnerable, having just given birth, the last thing on your mind is work. But so many women are faced with the difficulty of facing redundancy whilst they should be focusing all of their energy on their little one. 

Unfortunately, I was one of these women in January ✨

Pregnancy was difficult for me. I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which caused me to be sick 20+ times a day throughout my whole pregnancy, up until birth. I worked every single day during this time. I was lucky enough to work remotely so I got by, but it was hard. I then went through an extremely traumatic birth in September 2023 which took me a long time to recover from. I was finally in a place where I was bonding with my baby and getting into a routine, albeit very sleep-deprived!

And then I got a message from HR asking me to attend a meeting and my world fell apart.

I chose to have a baby with the plan of returning to work and being financially stable. But this threw a whole tonne of uncertainty my way. Mixed with extreme hormones, sleep deprivation and a full time job looking after my son, I didn’t know what to do.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I landed in a very dark place and cried a lot of tears.

But this was the hand I was dealt, and now I needed to find a job.

Now finding a job whilst looking after my son was not easy. I would apply for jobs during his naps, in between attending baby classes, as I was determined to let this take away my time with him. I would sit up in the middle of the night endlessly scrolling to find jobs that would offer me the flexibility I needed.

I had so many interviews for remote companies, who then declared I would need to be in London a few days a week. 

One recruiter even asked me if I was planning on having any more children.

Then my sister recommended that I check out Flexa. I could apply the filters I needed based on the flexibility I was after to find genuine, flexible companies. 

Luckily for me, Flexa were hiring for a role that I’ve been doing for years! They practised what they preached from the start and were happy for me to interview with my baby when childcare fell through! 

And now I can say I’m out the other side, happier than ever.

I’ve since decided I want to support other working parents, and recently shared the statistics around redundancies during maternity leave. I found so many others who have been through the same, and it’s both lovely to connect with them and horrifying to see so many others who went through this. 

New redundancy rights during pregnancy and maternity leave

On April 6th 2024, the law changed to better protect those who are pregnant, on maternity or adoption leave, or those returning to work after having a baby. 

The previous law only protected you whilst on maternity leave. Employers had to offer a suitable vacancy (if there is one) during a redundancy process.

From April 6th,  employers must offer a suitable vacancy (if there is one) from the point that an employee informs their employer they’re pregnant until 18 months after the expected week of childbirth, the child’s birth date, or date of adoption, for employees returning from maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave.

This does not actually protect you from redundancy if there are no suitable roles for you, but it is a step in the right direction.

We need to do more to support & protect women on maternity leave 

But will these new rights actually protect and support women? At a time when you are so vulnerable and bringing new life into the world, employers could do better to better protect their people. 

Here is some advice I would offer to employers managing someone who is pregnant or on maternity leave:

  • Stay connected: Keep in touch with regular updates about the company, team, and any changes that may affect them. This helps us feel valued and included while we’re not working.
  • Offer support: If you are making a role redundant and there are no other jobs available, provide access to resources or support networks for mothers on maternity leave to help them manage the stress and find new roles. If possible, offer a good settlement package to support them financially.
  • Flexible work options: Consider offering flexible work arrangements, such as part-time schedules or remote work, to accommodate the needs of mothers transitioning back to work after maternity leave. This flexibility can help ease the transition and support their work-life balance. It’s been a massive help for me at Flexa!
  • Be open and honest: Be honest about the company's situation and any potential changes that may affect employees, including those on maternity leave. Finding out about redundancy is always tough, especially when you’re on maternity leave and adjusting to life as a new mum. 

The added stress, on top of birth recovery, hormones and sleep deprivation is not a healthy way to live. 

Without women giving birth, our population would decrease. There will be no one to do these jobs and no one supporting our retirement. 

There is definitely more we can do to protect those on maternity leave and encourage the return to work 🙏🏼

If you are on maternity leave and need support here are some useful links for you to explore.