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Workingmums.co.uk’s annual survey shows the barriers many women working flexibly face with regard to career progression. These include not being given any training or development, being ruled out of promotions, finding themselves stuck in a flexible job because of a lack of quality flexible jobs being advertised, having to change careers due to a lack of any flexibility and having hours [and pay] reduced but not tasks. Many women had had to reduce their pro rata pay significantly in order to get flexible working. We highlight three women here who typify the response we have had on this issue:
Lauren Powell works in recruitment in Berkshire. She has a two-year-old daughter. She came back from maternity leave after seven months and worked four days condensed into three. However, her workload remained the same and her salary was reduced by more than a pro rata sum. She says she was made to feel that she should be grateful to get flexible working. She was soon told that the condensed pattern wasn’t working and that she had to increase to four days. She was not allowed any homeworking, but was expected to pick up any extra work on her day off. She says it took 18 months for her workload [which was greater than other full-time workers] to be reduced. She adds that she has been passed over for promotion so she is about to change jobs and move out of the recruitment industry. Her new role will be full time, but with lots of flexibility and home working. Asked what needs to change she said: “Attitudes need to change. People are stuck in the past and HR need to address this bias across every company. Flexible workers are often bullied and have no one to turn to. HR should conduct a review of all flexible workers every so often to make sure everything is okay.”
Rachel Nurse works in retail management and lives in Derbyshire. She has a seven-year-old daughter. She says before she had children she was next in line for promotion to store manager, but after she fell pregnant that was never mentioned again. Because she has to pick up her daughter from the childminder by 6pm she cannot go for any roles higher up the ranks because the main company hours are 8.30am to 6pm. Rachel fixed her rota after having her daughter so she could manage childcare. This has been more difficult in different stores where the person doing the rota has decided that she needs to be 100% fully flexible and has changed her rota on a weekly basis. She would like to see more fixed shifts. She relies heavily on her parents to help with childcare, but they are often not available so on several occasions in the last year she has had to take her daughter to work with her.
Justine French* [not her real name] works in the private sector and lives in Bradford. She has a three year old child. She says there have not been any flexible positions advertised at her workplace at all in the six years she has been there and that only full timers who work standard hours get promoted. She knows a part-time worker who has been there for 17 years in the same job role. After returning from maternity leave she put in a flexible working request, but it was rejected. She was told her job couldn’t be done part time and her suggestion of a job share was also turned down. She says she asked for homeworking and it was not even discussed. She had to go back to her full-time role or change department and start again as a trainee, which is what she did. Asked what needs to change, she says: “I think employers need to understand that times have moved on. Women no longer stay at home to raise children because they also want a career and it’s impossible in this day and age to survive on one wage. Job shares would work absolutely fine and loads of women would jump at the chance. At the moment I feel flexible workers have jobs rather than a career and this is what needs to change.”