Covering maternity

The head of the first UK employment agency to specialise solely in cross-sector maternity cover says he aims to reduce the amount of women who do not return to work after maternity leave.

Paul Jenkins, who set up with seven staff, believes that recruitment and its fee structure needs to change. He says recruitment agencies are still charged the same model for fees as they did 20 years ago, but it’s a much easier and quicker process nowadays due to technology. “You can hit 100,000 people in under a second whereas 25 years ago you’d have to go through files,” he says.By saving money on recruitment they can afford to involve the mums whose roles are being covered in the process and pay them up to £1k to help them with their new arrival.

He says maternity cover recruitment is very different from other forms of temporary recruitment. “Other temporary recruitment is usually fixed term for a project. It’s not about filling a role someone else holds,” says Paul. Moreover, if the woman decides not to return after maternity leave it could be a permanent role.

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Part of the difficulty of finding maternity cover, he feels, is that the mother to be is not involved in the recruitment process and may feel anxious about the person covering their position and about what happens while they are away. The area is very tricky, he adds. Employers may feel slightly let down by the pregnancy depending on their circumstances. A recent survey shows one in four women feel they are discriminated against while they are pregnant or on maternity leave.

“We want to involve the mother in the process and to give something back to the employer and employee,” says Paul, adding that asks the employer’s permission to give the £1k to the mum or a nominated charity.

He also wants to do more research into the whole maternity leave process. Paul, who has been in recruitment for 25 years, has had to recruit for maternity cover a few times for people who have worked for him. He says, despite working for a recruitment company, he used an agency. “It’s hard to do. You want someone who is brilliant, but brilliant people tend to be in full time employment which is why cover is often done internally. It has to be a unique individual.”  However, he admits that, due to the recession, there are more good people around who will take temporary posts.

Since’s launch in early August it has filled roles already and is working with a number of ethical companies and corporates. Paul says: “If we can find them a person who is as good as those found by other agencies and give something back to the mum as well it’s a win win win. It’s important that companies open up the whole process more and speak to mums more about, for instance, about flexible working or the possibility of gradual return, so that the mums can come back with more confidence.”

To celebrate its launch, will also be giving the first 50 mums who successfully refer the firm to their employers a free Apple iPad 2 worth £329.

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