Fern Britton sends video message to Phillip Schofield
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Fern Britton has claimed male bosses on ITV’s This Morning had threatened her with the sack if she didn’t return to work shortly after giving birth. At the time, Fern was the Friday host of the ITV show alongside John Leslie, but following Judy Finnigan’s and Richard Madeley’s departure, she had been promoted to the main presenter role, shortly after negotiating her return to work.
The 64-year-old spoke candidly on the White Wine Question Time podcast hosted by Kate Thornton today.
Fern said that an unnamed male producer told her to return to her presenting role two weeks after giving birth “or there’s no job for you”.
She said that as a mother-of-four the presenter told managers at ITV that at the age of 44 she couldn’t just “turn up” so soon after having a baby.
The small-screen star claimed that she was told by one male producer “my wife was driving after two weeks” and warned that if she didn’t show up she would not have a job anymore.
Fern’s then-husband Phil Vickery, and father to their daughter Winnie, was also working at ITV as a chef.
Speaking on the podcast, Fern said: “It was when Richard and Judy had left, I was pregnant, she [Winnie] was due in September and the show went off air as it used to for the summer and then my boss said ‘well you’ve got to come back.’
“I said ‘well she’s going to be born in September and you go on air in September. I’m 44, I can’t just turn up.’
“And he said ‘if you don’t come then there’s no job for you.'”
Fern explained that she initially turned down the role after being given an ultimatum as she decided to stay home and take care of her newborn.
However, a few months later the ITV bosses called her up to ask her back on the show after a “disaster”.
As This Morning was in a crisis after Richard and Judy left in 2001 – ITV bosses spoke to the presenter and accommodated her return to work requests, which included someone looking after Winnie while she was on-air.
At that time Richard and Judy had been replaced by Coleen Nolan and Twiggy which didn’t resonate with viewers.
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Kate said: “It sounds like there wasn’t a huge amount of empathy.”
Fern claimed that the bosses at the time were all men as she spoke about being a “feminist”.
She went on: “Because the programme bosses were men.
“I’m not a man-hater – I am a feminist – but I’m not a man-hater… But they were guys.”
Fern continued: “I said [to a producer] ‘well, unfortunately, I’m 44, the other two pregnancies I had I had to have cesarean and I know that this baby is going to be born by cesarean so I know I won’t be able to do anything for the first six weeks anyway’.”
“[He said] oh my wife was driving after two or three weeks’ and I said ‘oh was she? How old was she?’ She was like 30.”
Fern and John were promoted to main hosts, with her requests met by ITV, that Winnie would go to work with her every day because she was feeding and “couldn’t be without her”.
The former This Morning host said it happened two decades ago when “things hadn’t moved as fast as they have now”.
An ITV spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “ITV has clear policies and procedures in place to support all of our colleagues when it comes to flexible working. We pride ourselves on being a flexible and inclusive employer and listen to our colleagues and their needs.”
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