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Having a baby should be the happiest moment in a woman's life. But, for one young expatriate working in Luxembourg the moment she announced she was pregnant to her employers, everything changed for the worse.
“Firstly, I was demoted, then suddenly I felt like no-one wanted to talk to me or give me support,” explained Catherine, who came to Luxembourg with her family when she was reassigned by her multinational employer to work on a short-term project.
As a sweetener, Catherine's rent was paid by her employer, she received a Luxembourg living allowance to supplement her old wage and was told that at the end of the project she would receive a permanent contract to remain in Luxembourg.
But, when the assignment came to an end, Catherine did not receive a permanent contract. What was worse, she fell pregnant.
"When I announced my pregnancy they proposed me a local contract but with lower compensation and a lower job level."
Not happy with being demoted, as she saw it, Catherine refused to sign the contract. It was then that conditions at her work began to deteriorate.
“My performance evaluations fell from “exceeding expectations” to “less efficient” although there were physical results showing differently. All my colleagues and clients were satisfied with my performance,” said Catherine. At the same time, the expectant mother said she began to be excluded from meetings and work discussions.
Catherine said that the physical and psychological impact of this shift in treatment affected her profoundly. She fell into a depression, began taking sedatives and sought psychological help because she dreaded going to work. Meanwhile, she is concerned about the effect this is having on her unborn child.
Despite promising to find a solution that would help Catherine to remain in Luxembourg, she says that her employer is now pushing to have her and her family repatriated to her country of origin where they will give her an unspecified job. She said the employer will not pay her rent and added compensation during her maternity leave in Luxembourg, making it impossible for her to remain here.
“The problem is also my family. My husband left his job to come here. We gave up our home and we've really integrated here,” she said, adding that she feels both cheated and used after “adding value” to the company where she worked and receiving no loyalty in return.
Catherine is, however, determined that other women should not face the same situation.
“It's probably too late for me to do much but I feel I have to say something about it,” she said, adding: “Perhaps this company will recognise themselves. If this is going to happen to another pregnant woman working hard, I want it to stop.”
When it comes to work-place bullying or mobbing, women are the most common victims in Luxembourg, according to Mobbing asbl. The support group, set up by unions Syprolux and LCGB, reported that 76 percent of all victims who contacted them in 2010 were women.
While “pregnancy” was not explicitly stated as the cause of mobbing, three percent of cases referred to the victim's private life. The private sector reported the highest proportion of mobbing cases, accounting for 88 percent.
Catherine is not the real name of the interviewee but has been used to protect her identity.
Contact Mobbing asbl www.lcgb.lu