The career challenge of taking a break to raise a family

Women who take a career break to look after children often face having to retrain or take a job in a different sector with nearly half finding it impossible to find a job in their field, according to’s annual survey.

The survey of over 2,300 mums found 48 per cent of mums who have taken a career break cannot find a job in their field, and 21 per cent that secured a job in their field had to take one at a lower level. Some 16 per cent found a job in their field which was not as flexible as they would have liked, and just 15 per cent said they were able to find a job in their field quite easily.

The survey also shows the high number of women who are retraining after having children. Some 65 per cent are interested in retraining and almost a third have retrained in the last year.

One woman said: “I only took three months off after my maternity leave ended and have had to accept a less senior position. I was unable to find a job at the same level due to employers believing my ‘other commitments’ would impact my ability to be flexible and perform my role effectively. I eventually got a job only by saying that I had taken a career break, rather than returning from maternity leave.”

Another mother reports: “I took an 18-month career break following redundancy and have since taken jobs paying only 60 per cent of my previous salary. This was due to a combination of what was available, what was a commutable distance for me, and what I dared apply for, since I’d lost quite a bit of confidence in the process.”

The survey also suggests that finances are not the only reason women return to work after having children. Although this is cited as the top reason, with 69 per cent of respondents saying that money was a ‘very important factor’ and 25 per cent reporting that it was ‘important’, many said that ultimately, they liked their job.

Having adult company, liking their job and getting out of the house also rated highly. Some 38 per cent said liking their jobs was a very important reason for going back to work and 47 per cent said it was an important factor. Sixty one per cent thought that returning to work was important or very important to secure adult company, compared with 55 per cent who said it benefitted them to get out of the house. Some 61 per cent reported they would work even if money was not an issue.

Gillian Nissim, founder of, said: “Many mums struggle to get back to work after taking a career break which means retention is a win-win for both mums and employers. Interestingly, there has been an increased focus on women returners in the last year with several organisations having launched their own returner programmes to help support women who have taken a career break back to work.

They argue that many women have years of experience and represent a huge and often overlooked talent pool. Far from the stereotype, they are also often highly motivated. The survey statistic that 61 per cent would work even if money was not an issue shows that sense of commitment as well as the fact that they derive a lot of enjoyment from their work.”

A growing number of businesses have noticed that they are potentially missing out on a large number of experienced professionals who have taken a career break to raise children and want to get back to work. Several have launched schemes aimed at attracting them back. Initially this was mainly in the financial services sector, which has historically had big problems retaining women after they have had children.

However, in the last year this has accelerated with a whole range of employers from different sectors offering Returnships or other forms of returner initiatives. Companies that offer these include: Deloitte, Cushman & Wakefield, Bloomberg, Thames Tideway Tunnel, DMW Group, Golin, Starcom Mediavest Group, recruitment experts, f1, and a recently announced joint Returnship collaboration between Vodafone, Centrica and Mars.

Liz Nottingham, HR Director at Starcom Mediavest Group UK, and founder of Back2businessship, adds: “The reasons for Back2businessship’s creation were based on my experience as a working mum, the loss of talent in the advertising industry each year and the desire to identify an important pool of talent. Even now in 2015 women are still not proportionately represented at senior levels with large numbers leaving their careers each year. Whichever way you look at it, this makes no sense at all. So, our programme is a journey of self-discovery, practical skills and hard advice to help prepare parents – who have been out of the work place for five years – for job searches and interviews.

Our founding partners F1 recruitment source the candidates and partner with the women to secure a placement at the end of the six day programme. On the flipside, Back2businessship is a call to employers to support these parents with placements, to be open minded about hiring transferable skills and be flexible with the working pattern our delegates can offer.”

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