‘Getting a flexible job should not be such a struggle’

Workingmums.co.uk’s annual survey shows many mums feel stuck in their jobs due to the lack of a flexible alternative. We spoke to two who told us what needs to change.

Woman working at home


Workingmums.co.uk’s released its annual survey results this week which show that over three quarters of working mums [80%] feel stuck in the job they are in because they don’t think they will be able to find a new one with the same degree of flexibility they now have, while 57% say their career has not progressed since they have had children. We spoke to two mums to bring home the personal cost of lack of flexible new roles. 

Dee* works in catering and has done since leaving school in 2001, rising to managerial level. She has one child under one.

Before the birth she was on a salaried 54-hour-a-week managerial contract. After maternity leave her employer said they could not offer a flexible working pattern as they needed managers to be available at all times. Dee was then offered a demotion onto a minimum wage job on a 25-hour-a-week set contract. She accepted this contract as she had no available childcare. She is now seeking a new job as she struggles financially and works unsocial hours so it is hard to spend time with her family.

She says: “I feel very stuck.” She has no control over what hours she works and her husband works completely different hours so they are rarely together.

Asked what needs to change, she states: “I would like large companies to invest in their managers and offer more childcare options/benefits or part time/set/flexible management positions. From my experience within the catering industry a person can only progress if they don’t have any other responsibilities.”

Seeking self employment to get more flex

Anisha*, a mum of two boys aged seven and eight, is a lettings officer in a housing association and has been in the housing industry for 17 years.

She has been in her current role for three years, but always as an officer. She is too fearful to apply for management roles as she is worried her flexibility will be taken away having seen it done to others. She worked for another company during her maternity leave and went back on reduced hours after fighting for this to be agreed.

She has had a lot of support from her current line manager, who is very understanding, but the flexibility she has is on an informal basis. She fears if she asks for anything more formal it will be turned down by those higher up the chain. She is keen to progress, but says having children has made her rethink things.

She says she has looked at part-time jobs and there are very few and those there are are on very low pay. She has done contract work in the past which was flexible, but as soon as a permanent role was suggested all the flexibility was taken away and she says she is afraid to bring up flexibility in interviews for the same reason.

Anisha says: “Due to the regimented set-up of the corporate world and some companies that are totally not parent-friendly now I just want to become a full-time entrepreneur which is what I’m transitioning into. So I can pretty much work on my own terms. Having had such a hard time in the corporate world I intend to ensure my staff have unlimited flexibility.”

She adds: “Flexible working should be in the contract from the get-go for parents regardless of the role you are doing and we should be able to utilise it whenever we need it without such long processes in place. It’s just all so long winded and unnecessary. Working from home should also be in the employment contract for parents. If I’m able to do the same job at home that I’d do in the office (not to mention save the company some money on overheads such as use of a desk, pc, phone etc) then why is working from home always refused?”

*Names have been changed 

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