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Redundancy on maternity leave and the sexism that followed at WINZ (work and income New Zealand)

This is my journey from being the working mum, to being made redundant during pregnancy, to finally being the stay at home parent after the government told me I was unable to be the “primary earner”, because I was a woman....

In the winter of 2013 I had a phone call from a work mate, it was a seemingly innocent phone call about whether I could pop into the office for a staff meeting.

I was 5cm dilated and laughed through contractions during the phone call stating “nope, can’t come in, the baby’s head was nearly out!”

I had been on maternity leave after going into early labour at 35 weeks, I was instructed to lay down and do very little so that the contractions would slow down from every 15 minutes to every hour. But after two long weeks of having contractions every hour 24 hours a day, I had a stretch and sweep at 37 weeks… I was over it!

Things began to happen, and my second beautiful baby was born… little but perfect, and our life with 2 young children began.

11 days after the baby was born I suddenly remembered about that phone call and although I had spoken to my friend from work and my workmates had messaged me and congratulated me, I forgot to ask what the meeting was about.

I texted my friend and she texted back… “You better call Garry”… It sounded ominous.

So I called, only to receive the news that I was being made redundant! It was a huge blow, but in all honesty I had a 11 day old baby and a 17 month old toddler to look after, plus a couple of medical issues… It wasn’t on the top of my “worry list”.

Also, it wasn’t just me, the whole company was restructuring, the film industry was in a downward spiral, they needed to start again in order to save the company.

Now I just want to state that although it was disappointing, I had no bad feelings towards my old bosses, they were lovely and supportive throughout the process.

They are also now back up and running with a lot of the old staff back and I still pop in and see them on occasion to have a coffee and a chat. They have always been a positive part of my life.

My first trip leaving the house was to attend a meeting at work and be made redundant.

It was lovely seeing people again, to catch up, but the feeling was strained and emotional.

It was weird being out of the house by myself let alone being in a room with all my workmates being told of the redundancies. I made jokes throughout the meeting to lighten the mood, I couldn’t tell if it was appreciated at all, nor did I really care, in all honesty I was too tired to notice.

I left the meeting upset for the company, I wished there was more that I could do, I told my bosses I was fine and I had no hard feelings, I understood why they had to do what they did. I told them not to worry about me, my husband still had his part time contract as an actor on a series of adds… we would be fine.

But it wasn’t fine…

3 weeks later, my husband’s contract was not renewed… we were both out of work.

So here we were, both out of work with a 1 month old baby and a 18 month old toddler…

We lived on our savings for 3 full months with both of us looking for work until we started to run out of money. By this stage we had even moved into a new house closer to my parents so they could help us and we had put the old house on the market.

We decided we needed help from the government and with heavy hearts we swallowed our pride and applied for a benefit.

I decided that I would be the primary job seeker as I was already on the system from when I was receiving a benefit as a student and a short time after being on a job seekers benefit. Aaron would be the stay at home parent as he was already the “stay at home dad” while I was working anyway.

But we were wrong in thinking that the woman could be the primary earner.

We were surprised to learn that as a woman, I was unable to be the person who could apply for the jobs and my husband… a male, was unable to put his hand up and be the stay at home parent!

We were a little shocked, but we were desperate to pay our electricity bill and be able to put food on the table so we backed down and swapped our roles around… filled out the many forms and meetings and we finally, 3 weeks later we were on the benefit.

So HE… The man, looked for work.

And ME… the woman, stayed at home with the kids.

It was another 2 full weeks till a job offer came my husband’s way, and although we were happy for the support that came from WINZ, we were baffled to why a woman cannot be the primary earner?

I have now been the stay at home mum since, writing, blogging and now running a small business from home.

Although being a stay at home parent is hard, I am glad that we both have experienced both sides and my forced redundancy has meant that I could enjoy being with both kids at home… so I am happy for that.

But I still have questions, why was I not able to be the primary earner as a woman under the WINZ scheme?

Is sexism actually rife in the "system"? or was this just a case worker with no clue of how the system worked?

Have things changed?

Have you had a similar experience?

I am currently looking for writing work, writing content for somebody... anybody... I have been knocked back now so many times :(

I recently changed my CV to exclude any reference to my two children, but I have also been advised that AS A WOMAN AND MOTHER the best course of action is to also include the fact that I am no longer planning on having anymore, but I just have to work on my wording as "we are firing blanks in the bedroom and the womb has shut up shop" seems a bit on the nose hahaha.

Do men have to exclude their children on their CV and stipulate that there will be no more babies in the near future? I'm not sure they do...

My husband actually would love to have another stint at being the stay at home parent again even though it is hard work, so maybe life will flip on its head again for us :)


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