A FORMER policewoman claims her career was ruined by senior officers who refused to arrange shifts so that she could breast feed.
Long-serving constable Rowena Robbie wanted to return from maternity leave to a post with working hours that would allow her to breast feed her six-month-old child.
But chiefs at Lothian and Borders Police would only offer PC Robbie a job that included night and late shifts.
The law graduate – who worked for the force for 14 years and at one point held the rank of acting Sergeant – said she thought about self-harming and could not focus on her children as a result of the row.
Mrs Robbie this week launched an action at an employment tribunal, claiming sex discrimination and a breach of her maternity rights.
Before going on maternity leave, Mrs Robbie, from Penicuick, Midlothian, had been working at the Scottish Parliament’s police unit.
The post allowed the 39-year-old to work part-time day shifts that suited family life.
Mrs Robbie was made aware of possible cuts in police numbers at the parliament but believed there was
“every opportunity’ she would return to her post.
She was just weeks away from going back in June 2009 when police confirmed her old job had been axed to save money.
Mrs Robbie said a chief inspector then decided that she would return to work in the city’s tough Wester Hailes area and a
“greater spread of shifts would be required.”
Mrs Robbie said she was having trouble weaning her daughter off-of breast milk.
She told the tribunal:
“Perhaps I was feeding her too well. She didn’t want to take a bottle or cup. I tried to wean her onto a bottle when she was six months old. She had no interest whatsoever.
“At the beginning of the summer I was feeding her three times a day, first thing in the morning when she woke, then about mid-day and again at bed-time about 7pm. That would allow her to go to sleep at night. “
“I felt I had no option. I wanted her to be properly fed. The only way of doing that was to feed her myself until a year. “
Mrs Robbie added:
“I didn’t want to make an issue of it working in an all male environment. It was a personal issue. I felt I would be entitled to go back to work the hours I was working. “
Mrs Robbie’s agent, David Hay, asked if she felt the job she was offered was
“It was completely impossible for me. There was just no way I could do it. At bed time I needed to be at home and put her to bed. She needed a routine. If I messed about with that there is a good chance she would have a sleepless night. “
Mrs Robbie said she
“couldn’t function’ after a grievance hearing into her ordeal took place in July, 2009.
“I was having panic attacks and I couldn’t focus on my children. I couldn’t hear them talking to me’, she said.
“I was vocalising the arguments that had gone on in the hearing without knowing it. I was scaring my daughter and I was thinking of self-harming.”
She said she could not go back to work, and a doctor signed her off work with depression in August 2009. The same month she began her legal action against the force.
Just two months after that, Lothian and Borders suddenly offered Mrs Robbie a job back in the parliament. She told the hearing that by then she was too unwell to resume work.
Under cross-examinationit was put to Mrs Robbie that in the beginning of 2009 she was offered a couple of options that could fit in with her routine. But she said she did not reply or take up any of those offers, because her daughter had been diagnosed with a heart murmur. She added:
“I couldn’t face the stress. I had other personal circumstances at the time. “
When asked if she felt her original post had been removed for personal reasons, she said:
“I came to think it was because I was on maternity leave, potentially because I worked part-time. “
A representative acting on behalf of Lothian and Borders Police said the force’s policy on breast feeding was that no woman would have to work night shift before her child was six months old.
They also provide facilities for breast-feeding mothers to express milk, the force’s agent added.
However, Mrs Robbie said:
“I felt badly treated. I had a great sense of unfairness. “