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Am I being discriminated against? Or am I just overreacting?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by miss_c, Jun 23, 2011.

  1. miss_c

    miss_c New commenter

    Hi all,
    over the past 2 months I have been organising a school trip for a class I have taught for 2 years. It is a day trip to a destination about 150 miles away. I am 27 weeks pregnant and will be 29 weeks pregnant on the day of the trip.
    I was informed yesterday by a member of management that I will not be allowed to go on the trip as a result of my pregnancy. Apparently it is a health and safety issue, in case I go into labour on the bus, or something. He was quite vague about it and certainly didn't show me any paperwork to back up the decision that a woman in her 29th week of pregnancy is not fit to go on a school trip.
    What do people think about this? I am very hurt and very angry and have already drafted a letter to the head outlining the many reasons I think this is an unfair and unreasonable decision. My HOD has advised me not to send the letter as I don't want to get on the wrong side of management (especially with maternity leave looming and trying to negotiate a new part time post to come back to etc.).
    Should I pursue what I feel to be unfair treatment? Or am I overreacting?

    p.s. Just to add that I am having a healthy pregnancy so far and am young, fit etc. and there is no reason to believe there will be any problems/complications.
  2. slingshotsally

    slingshotsally Star commenter

    Hi miss_c,
    I was healthy too- but the muscles and tendons get affected by the progesterone and RELAX so this is what happened to me...
    <u>I was 31 weeks when I slipped a disk just bending over putting washing in the washing machine</u>.
    I was in such excuriating pain from the slipped discs that I didn't know I was also having contractions- I was given pethedine and muscle relaxants to stop the contractions as well as placed in bed in hospital with a baby monitor attached to me. It was hell. Four days of hell untill the contractions died down and we knew the baby wasn't coming- he'd have been on breathing equipment and in an incubator with God know's what other problems in the future due to his prematurity.
    Your bosses are wise to the many, many things that could happen- being on a 150 mile journey on a bus!! Are you friggin kiddin!! May be you haven't smelt the hideous stink of toilets mixed with diesel!
    My advice is to calm down, thank the Good Lord that your bosses have the good sense to let someone else do that journey.
    Take care
  3. I agree. I wouldn't have gone at that stage of my pregnancy.

  4. miss_c

    miss_c New commenter

    I'm sorry but I disagree with both of your posts. I am healthy and fit and I am looking after my back (as I have had sciatica and slipped discs before). I drive long distances every day to commute to work, I walk several miles every evening with my pack of dogs and feel fine.
    150 miles is nothing. I will be sitting with my feet up reading a book and sipping mineral water. I did offer to drive the bus but didn't mind being talked out of that. Being told I'm not allowed to sit on a bus is a different matter entirely.
    Although my bump is getting quite big and I would no longer do any exercise that involved getting my heart rate really high I do not see a problem with sitting on my *rse for a few hours on a bus and sitting in a theatre to watch a play. If I ever feel I need special treatment I ask for it, but the rest of the time I'd prefer not to be treated like I have some sort of disability.
  5. I think you're over-reacting. Am assuming you won't agree but you did ask for opinions...
  6. miss_c

    miss_c New commenter

    Err, what? Where precisely does it say that a pregnant woman caused that crash? If we all had that attitude to life we'd never leave our front door. Or our bed. But even then we wouldn't be safe as we could be suffocated by our pillows.
    Try to understand my POV. This is a class that mean a lot to me. This was supposed to be our chance to say goodbye and a reward trip for their hard work over the past 2 years. It's also an opportunity for me to see a performance of a set text I teach performed by oscar winning actors.
    Since 60% of the marks available for the course I teach come from my ability to teach kids about the context of performance and their ability to analyse it in the exam (and not just refer to the play as if it were a book) I think it's important for both me and them that they see the play on stage if they want to do well in their A-levels.
  7. I've never been pregnant so I don't have direct experience but I assume that the school is considering what could happen if you do go into labour/become incapacitated in some other way leaving the other staff over stretched for the number of kids that will be on the trip. I would give up the isea of going but I do think that the school should have given you more notice than they have - they have presumablty known for some time that you are pregnantand should have thought of this a long time ago. I would write a (carefully worded) letter but I would focus on their late decision making meaning you did most of the work organising the trip but are then unable to see it through to fruition.
  8. wrldtrvlr123

    wrldtrvlr123 Occasional commenter

    I would agree that the way the decision was made and communicated was not handled particularly well. To be told at this relatively late date that you are simply "not allowed" to go on the trip was disrespectful and condescending to a certain extent.
    That being said, if they had approached this with you as a possible concern for discussion, you apparently would not have felt they had any valid concerns and the result probably would not been any different.
    As for your actual question, no, I would not send the letter. They already know that you disagree with the decision, they are not likely to change their minds. What positive purpose does it serve to send a lettter to the Head, telling them how unfair and unreasonable they have been? This will not be greeted warmly and could cause some negative feelings towards you (even if only unconsciously) at a time when you will be dependent upon the school's goodwill.
  9. bigfatgit

    bigfatgit New commenter

    Your Headteacher has a responsibility to both you and the students under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act of 1974. Under the same act, you (as an employee) must, "take reasonable care of their own and others' health and safety" and "co-operate with with their employers over safety matters"
    Your Headteacher is acting in a very reasonable manner and is thinking not only of your (and your unborn child's) safety but also that of the students on the trip
    As the person in charge of trips at my school, I wouldn't let you on the trip unless 2 other teachers also went on the trip - one to look after you if something happened and one to fulfil your duties while you are being looked after
    Does that make more sense?
  10. bigfatgit

    bigfatgit New commenter

    And I mean 2 additional staff over and above those already going as per student / staff ratios
  11. Personally, I think if you are happy and feel well enough to go - then that is fine. A letter from your midwife is perhaps in order? Presumably you are not the sole adult on the trip?

    Perhaps an additional member of staff may be necesary if the children are small, but quite frankly if you are able to do your job, I don't see why they are making a fuss. Not sure about sending the letter - but would drop heavy hints that it looks like discrimination.

    Bit of a bone of contention with me - pregnancy is a condition not an illness, therefore should be treated accordingly.
  12. langteacher

    langteacher Occasional commenter

    I assume that you have followed standard procedure and asked permission to run the trip. I assume that on the form your name would have been down as trip leader. I assume they knew that two months ago you were pregnant. If you are not allowed to go (personally I don't think you should be but that's just my opinion) then the permission should never have been granted.
    If on the other hand, they did not know you were pregnant when you asked permisson then that is altogether a different story
  13. Not only did I lead school trips up to 32 weeks, I used to drive a minibus full of fourth formers (Y10) to our destination with no accompanying member of staff. Clearly this was the 'good old days' before health and safety was even a twinkle .....
  14. Surely there is always a risk of somebody being taken ill on a trip. If your pregnancy has been problem free so far and you are healthy and fit, why is there any additional risk on this school trip? It's not as if you will be 39 weeks. Does the insurance the school holds to cover trips exclude pregnant teachers? If not, why should the school consider there to be a problem? Pregnancy is not a health problem it is a normal condition.
    If you feel strongly enough you could contact your doctor for an opinion, and you could consider asking for a referral to occupational health for an assessment. If you are fit for work, you are fit to go on the trip which does not pose any particular risks associated with pregnancy (you're not going up in an unpressurised aircraft, are you?)
  15. Crowbob

    Crowbob Established commenter

    [​IMG] Totally agree.
    Depends on how far you wish to push it, but you certainly have grounds for complaint.
  16. FollyFairy

    FollyFairy Occasional commenter

    When I was 32 weeks pregnant, I went to France by coach/ferry on a school trip for a week.... it was great fun and only thing I didn't do was go swimming!
    However, on the day I went, I was told by the Head of English that if it was his trip, he wouldn't let me go as I was a health risk and I should be at home drinking green tea...
    I think this is discrimination and certainly talk to your union, however, does depend on far you wish to take it!
  17. cheesypop

    cheesypop Occasional commenter

    I think this has been handled badly but I do think that there are sensible reasons behind what has been said, even though they have gone at it like a bull in a china shop and upset you.
    It is hard when you are pregnant, especially with your first one, you want everyone to treat you exactly the same and may even be a bit worried that you will never be treated the same again - you'll always be seen as a 'mother' first.
    IMHO, I wouldn't fight this. I would, however, ensure there was a ticket available for me and get myself to the theatre that night if I really wanted to go. That way you get to see the play, see the kids etc but you don't go on the bus and you are not responsible for anyone and no-one is responsbile for you either.

  18. frymeariver

    frymeariver New commenter

    I agree with the fact that the way in which this was communicated sounds insensitive but does that mean that the decision is wrong?
    Objectively, I think I can understand why the decision has been reached and do not think it is necessarily due to discrimination. For what it's worth, my opinion is that (a) it is the school's responsibility to mitigate the risks associated with the trip and needs to consider both your safety and your ability to ensure the safety of the children in the case of an accident and (b) if there is any chance that there is an increased risk the school is obligated to act in the best interests of all parties.
    Consider what the Educational Visits Coordinator at your school would have to say in court (when their livelihood is on the line not yours) when asked by a barrister, "Did you consider that the fact that the teacher in charge of the trip was pregnant to be a potential risk to the safe running of the trip?" When they answer yes this would be closely followed by, "What did you do to mitigate this risk?" I am not sure that they can not act in this case. I would not send the letter.
  19. Crowbob

    Crowbob Established commenter


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