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The vast majority of mums feel they have been pressured into coming back from maternity leave earlier than they would have liked or have had to start their leave later than they wanted to, according to a Workingmums.co.uk poll.
The poll found this was particularly true for women who had been on maternity leave in the last year. Some 92% of the over 400 women polled said they had felt under pressure to come back to work early or stay on at work later than they wanted.
One per cent had felt pressure to come back early in the last five years and three per cent had felt pressure to return early more than five years ago. Four per cent had felt no pressure.
There is concern that financial pressures may be forcing women to return to work as soon as possible. The Workingmums.co.uk’s 2013 survey showed 62% of those working had taken less than 12 months off before returning to work. Some 32% took between one and six months off, 3% up on the previous year, and 30% took between seven and 12 months off. Some 23% had more than two years away from working. Growing numbers are also turning to self employment from which there is no right to maternity leave or to statutory maternity pay.
Generally women said they were returning to work because for financial reasons.
One woman who took part in the poll said that she had had to take out a grievance to get the hours she wanted when she returned and said mums needed to know their rights and fight for them. “What I have learnt from my experience is not to give up but to keep on trying as we all have rights as working parents which employers have a duty to help with.”
Another spoke of the long hours culture in nursing and a ‘like it or leave’ attitude by managers. She said she had witnessed open hostility to mums and little understanding of the impact of working overtime on childcare plans and on children. She added that many of the managers were mums themselves who had been able to take career breaks when their children were young.