If you don’t ask, you don’t get, says flexible work survey

The second annual workingmums.co.uk survey shows many women are not asking for flexible working before going on maternity leave even though many are likely to get it.

Workers in office

Flexible working could help to reduce the rising employee absence trend

However, a large percentage of women are still not making that request. The survey of over 1,100 respondents found that:

  • 57% of mothers who discussed the possibility of flexible working either got what they wanted or were able to reach a compromise with their employers
  • 70% of these mothers felt that their job ranged from flexible to extremely flexible.

There are still a high number of mothers who do not ask for flexible working and many who find it hard to achieve working patterns that meet their new lifestyles.

The results indicate that if you don’t ask, you don’t get

  • 47% of survey respondents have not discussed flexible working with their employers even though 83% of mothers wanted an employer’s acceptance of flexible working upon return.

However, the majority of the mothers surveyed (55%), did not return to their original job after taking time out to have children and this is where achieving flexibility is still an issue:

Over 72% of mothers felt that the lack of appropriate and available flexible jobs is the biggest barrier to returning to work.

Many had taken a pay cut in order to be able to work flexibly, with 53% saying they earned less than before they had children even if they were to work full-time on their current rate of pay.

“I am delighted that many women are achieving a positive balance when going back to work as they are taking control and being proactive in their approach to flexible working,” says Gillian Nissim, founder of WorkingMums.co.uk.

“However, there remains a large number of women who continue to be unaware of their rights to work flexibly or unable to discuss this with their employers.

“What’s clear is that mothers need to maintain communications with their employers to achieve a mutually beneficial ongoing working relationship.

Many women reported that by managing the contact they had with their employer, they experienced a far smoother transition back into the workplace.”

Over three quarters of mothers surveyed said that their employers were supportive upon their return to work. The survey also found that 70% of mothers who returned to work to the same employer after maternity leave did so on a part-time basis.

Respondents reported that occasional contact with their teams, access to work emails as well as invitations to social events during their maternity leave all proved beneficial for when it was time to return.

Maintaining relationships with colleagues and employers is clearly very important; unsurprisingly, mums want to be kept in the loop and feel part of the team.

“Sometimes the perception is that it is the employer’s obligation to keep in contact, but like any good relationship, it’s important to talk to each other,” says Gillian.

There are several things a mother can do to help get back to work. Gillian suggests:

  • Finding out what your rights are by looking online, and talk to friends who have requested flexible working
  • Research your company’s policy on flexible working and find out the experience of others who have applied for it
  • Before you go on maternity leave, work out the contact level and regularity you would like to maintain with your employer.
  • Ask for things that would help make your transition smoother, e.g. refresher training, access to email, participation in team meetings via the phone
  • Assess your situation and work out what suits you best: for example the ability to work from home, part-time or flexi hours and also childcare options.
  • Make use of Keeping In Touch days.
  • Think about what you want from your company’s perspective and consider whether it is beneficial for them too. Take the time with your employer to discuss flexible working and why it would be positive for the company and you.

*The survey involved more than 1,100 respondents, 99% of whom were mothers and 1% fathers.

  • 45% were aged between 35 and 44, 41% between 25 and 34, 10% were either above 45 and 5% under 24.
  • 56% of respondents have 2 or more children; the majority have at least one child under the age of 5.
  • Most were in households with an annual income of over £50k.
  • 50% are currently working. 75% are looking for a new job. 34% are looking to start a new job in the next month.

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