Let them eat cake

The latest unemployment statistics show that women are among the most likely to lose their jobs as the public sector job cuts bite. Many chose to work in the public sector in part because it is more likely to offer the flexibility they need to balance work and family life.

They face an uphill battle to find a new job. It will be even more difficult to find one that offers any form of flexibility. One person who is having a difficult time finding a flexible new post after losing one last year, albeit in the private sector, is Suzanne Cain.

Manchester-based Suzanne was made redundant after her national law firm, Halliwells, went into administration. She has two children aged four and two. She says finding any job is hard, but competition for the scarce part-time jobs is fierce. She claims there are around 100 people going for every part-time job. “Unless you have the exact requirements you don’t stand a chance,” she says. She has been applying for full-time positions too, but she has to make a careful calculation as to whether it is worth it in terms of childcare costs.

Suzanne was working in internal communications and HR before she was made redundant and had just gone back from maternity leave. She had started at the firm as a full-time employee and after her first son was born she returned doing slightly fewer hours but compressed into fewer days. “I have been trying to replicate this ever since, but it seems impossible,” she says.

Because she had been on maternity leave it was a shock when the company went into administration and she says it happened very quickly. Her boss left and then funding for her corporate responsibility work started to dry up. In the end she was made redundant and started to look at roles in legal marketing where she had worked in the past. “Before I had children I used to work in this sector, but I would be working until 7 or 8pm every night, since having my sons, I just don’t have the flexibility to do this again,” she says.


After getting nowhere with her job search, Suzanne became fairly depressed. She says the only thing that cheered her up was baking. “My husband commented on how my mood improved when I was baking,” she says. She started making character cakes for friends and family. Now she has decided to set up her own cake-making business, Cake to Measure, while she is still keeping her eye out for job possibilities.

“There is a massive gap in my cv now,” she says, “and running a business could provide me with some skills.” She is retraining and doing an advanced diploma in cake decorating. She also used her marketing skills to set up a website and she is promoting her business through social media.

At least working for herself means she can get the flexibility she needs she says. That is vital since her husband, a lawyer, works long hours. “I used to love my previous job,” she states. “It was really interesting and I think I will never get that kind of role again. I need to be doing something to keep my brain going and I think part timers work more productively because they tend to be incredibly focused, but businesses still don’t advertise many flexible jobs.”

Picture credit: Stuart Miles and www.freedigitalphotos.net

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