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Nearly half of mums have left jobs since the pandemic because they had their flexible working taken away, showing how valued it is. workingmums.co.uk spoke to one mum who left her profession due to an inflexible employer.
A lack of flexible working or any kind of compromise can be devastating for women’s careers. workingmums.co.uk’s most recent annual survey shows flexible working is a dealbreaker for 74% of mums, with 42% of those who have had flexible working taken away from them since the pandemic leaving their job as a result.
One woman who knows what it feels like to not get the flexible working she needs is Rhoda Jones* who had to leave the dental profession as a result and find a job in another sector.
Rhoda, who has two children aged five and two, originally trained as a dental nurse, but left nursing after her first child was born because of the long hours and because she found that, due to having to leave home at 7.30am and often not getting back until late due to emergency patients, she would sometimes only see her child at bedtime during the week.
In September 2021 her oldest child started school, but that caused more stress because after school clubs did not accept young children and the family had to juggle pick-ups between Rhoda, her partner and his mother. They also had to deal with the explosion of sicknesses at school and nursery after months of lockdown.
But it was her employer’s inflexibility that led her to leave. After maternity leave, Rhoda faced problems with accessing full-time care when her son started nursery. Her employer was not willing to budge and insisted she had to do full-time hours. “I was being forced to make a decision between my child and my work,” she says. She returned and used her unpaid parental leave to look after her son and keep her job.
Her employer said they wanted her to stay, but they made no accommodation for her childcare issues. “They made it impossible for me to stay,” she says. “I felt pushed out because there was no workable way to maintain my job. I could not keep taking unpaid parental leave and they were not willing to change my contract.”
She left her job in April and started temping in dental administration, but the short notice given for temporary jobs also caused childcare issues. Moreover, she had told her agency that she could only do certain days due to childcare, but they kept asking her to do the days she couldn’t do.
So Rhoda took some work as a school invigilator. Her agency then asked if she was interested in working as a teaching assistant. She said that she would be interested if she could work in primary schools. The agency sent her to a secondary school. Her first day involved covering GCSE physics classes, maths and history – “all my worst subjects,” she says. She was dropped in at the deep end with no support. “I found it traumatising,” she said. So she returned to invigilating.
Rhoda took the summer off to cover childcare. With the cost of living rising fast, she says she was lucky to be able to benefit from a free summer camp and free daily meals offered in the London borough where she lives. “It was a life saver,” she says.
Just recently she has got a part-time job working on reception at a charity where her hours match her childcare cover. The organisation is very flexible. When she mentioned the October half term which took place just after she started her new employer said not to worry, for instance. It was a big change in attitude from her last employer. She says: “I was fed up with struggling and hearing no after six years in a job where I had made so many compromises for business needs. It felt like they were not giving me anything back and that I was not in the right job or industry. My new employer knows my situation and I can be open about it. I feel so much happier.”
*Not her real name.