UK still hampered by bias against working mums, says report

The number of UK companies planning to hire working mums has plummeted over the past year, according to research published by workplace provider Regus. 

The number of UK companies planning to hire working mums has plummeted over the past year, according to research published by workplace provider Regus
Findings from a survey of 1,800 companies in the UK reveal that only a quarter (26%) plan to hire working mums in 2011 compared to 38% last year. With 43% of firms questioned saying they plan to increase employee numbers, Regus says the proportion intending to recruit working mums is regarded as worryingly low.
The Regus study finds that employers appear to be more reluctant to employ working mums because of old prejudices including:
– 38% of employers still fear that working mothers may show less commitment and flexibility than other employees;
– 31% of employers believe working mums will leave shortly after training to have another child;
– 17% are worried that women who return to the workplace will have out-of-date skills.
Globally, 36% of companies told Regus they intend to hire working mums in 2011, compared to 44% last year, leaving the UK significantly lagging behind.
The report notes, however, that a majority of businesses now value returning mothers, with 67% declaring they believe companies that ignore returning mothers are missing out on a significant and valuable part of the employment pool. In addition, 51% regard working mums as offering skills that are difficult to find in the current market; and 45% declare that they value returning mothers because they offer experience and skills without demanding top salaries. In the UK, not demanding top salaries was lower than the global average (57%), which Regus says may indicate that working mothers in Britain stand a better chance of being reasonably compensated for their work.
Celia Donne, Regional Director Regus and a mother, says: “It is not surprising to see that prejudiced attitudes come back into play with economic belt-tightening and some businesses are evidently still guilty of applying old-fashioned misgivings to the contemporary work environment. While the vast majority of firms agree that barring the door to working mums means shutting out valuable staff, there is some concern that family commitments may hinder working mothers from giving their job full attention and commitment. In addition to this, cuts in the UK public sector, where 65.5% of the workforce is female, mean that more women will be in search of employment in 2011, exacerbating the problem.
“As the workplace evolves it is recognised that businesses that are able to integrate these valuable assets stand a better chance of success. Fortunately, flexible work arrangements are becoming the norm and savvy businesses will find that they are able to provide a more family friendly and at the same time more productive work environment simply by allowing employees to work alternative hours or closer to home. Recognising that the needs of working mums are not exceptional and extending them to all workers will provide productivity and overheads reduction benefits as well as making for more motivated staff,” she adds.

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