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(Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail)
(Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail)

Nine To Five

Can I be fired before maternity leave starts? Add to ...

THE QUESTION

I am six months’ pregnant and have given my employer notice of my intent to take maternity leave in May. I gave the notice in early December. After the holidays, my employer informed me that I would have until the end of March to drum up more business or I would be let go.

Since then, we have had multiple meetings with potential customers. But they don’t sign up for our services within a week of meeting with us; they haven’t in the past and I don’t expect they will in future. I raised this concern with my boss but it did nothing to change his mind. He said he has drawn a “line in the sand” as of the end of March to determine whether to keep me on or not.

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I’m becoming annoyed about the lack of decision making and want to prepare for the next few months from a financial standpoint. I have covered my bases with employment insurance; as a result of this impending layoff, I would have to truncate my maternity leave to make ends meet. I have worked here since last May, so am owed only one week’s notice and no termination pay.

What should I do? Do I ask for a quick decision to cut off the stressful waiting, or do I let my boss drag out this process until he feels fit to make a decision?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Heather Faire

Human resources executive, Atlanta

The role of a manager is to develop their employees and manage performance. A big part of that is communicating clear goals and expectations, as well as providing performance feedback. It seems as if your manager is doing just that. It also seems he is giving you some time to try to respond to the feedback and improve your performance. Providing year-end performance feedback to employees and clarifying expectations is not unusual. I sense, however, you suspect this is happening because of your notice to take maternity leave. If you have never had feedback from your manager before, or you are the only employee who is receiving performance feedback, then you may be right. You will need to decide whether you want to file and pursue a claim. Just be sure that you have facts to back up your suspicions.

What may be more important is for you to make some decisions about your job and career. Do not abdicate that decision to your employer. If you want to continue to work for the company until May, take the feedback and work hard to try to bring in business. If you are not happy and want to leave, give your employer your resignation. Asking someone to make a big decision for you (in this case, your employer) may not get you the answer that you want or the one that is best for you and your family.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Greg Conner

Vice-president, human resources, League Financial Partners, Victoria

It seems your employer does not offer maternity leave benefits, which is unfortunate. Offering competitive maternity and parental leave benefits not only helps the employee, the baby and the family, but is also good for business. It increases employee loyalty and job satisfaction, and retains top talent, which reduces the overall cost of recruitment.One of your issues is that if you are let go at the end of March, you will have a gap to bridge that will end up “truncating” your maternity leave. If you add the week’s notice and the two-week EI waiting period, it should not financially harm you to a significant extent, as you will be close to the end of April.

Now let’s consider whether a complaint to your provincial labour ministry (or human rights tribunal) is in order. The key question is whether there are other sales staff and whether your targets and sales are in line with theirs. If so, and you’re within the group average, you have a strong case for a justifiable complaint. If you are not meeting the established standards, however, then it is unlikely you have a case.

Do not push your boss for a decision before the “deadline” he set. If you work to month’s end as a hard date, you should know close to then whether you will meet the sales targets and continue to be employed. If you like the work and you know over time you will be successful, keep going to the very last minute. It just might change your boss’s mind.

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine to Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to: ninetofive@globeandmail.com.

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