Working mothers still frustrated by lack of flexible options, says survey

The majority of working mothers are still frustrated by the lack of flexible working positions available, according to the second annual survey from Workingmums.co.uk.

The poll, which surveyed 1,100 mothers, shows that mothers are hungry for work and often have an impressive range of skills and experience to offer employers but feel that there is a distinct lack of opportunities to utilise them.

– 73% felt that the lack of appropriate and available flexible jobs is the biggest barrier upon returning to work
– 86% of mothers said that flexi – hours are the most desired working condition.
– 16% of those surveyed said their request for flexible working was turned down, sometimes with no consideration being given to it at all. Only 31% got the flexibility they requested, with 26% achieving a compromise with managers.
The research also found that employers may be allowing some of their top talent to slip through their fingers, with 75% of respondents admitting that they are currently looking for a new job. 55% of mothers said they started a new job after taking time off for children.

The most important factor for those returning to work, after flexible working, was being able to ease back into the job by increasing hours worked over time, being given time to settle back into work, being set clear targets and goals and being able to keep in touch with work during maternity leave, including having a series of meetings with managers prior to return. However, although over half of the mums surveyed said their employers made the right amount of effort to stay in contact during maternity leave, some 22% had no contact at all and a third wanted more contact.

Home based jobs
One employer that is reaping the benefits of creating excellent working conditions for working mums is Kate Shelford, Head of People and Profit at WOW property, a countrywide estate agency. WOW has built an agent network across the UK by offering flexible ‘home based’ jobs, and, as a result they have been able to tap into a pool of highly skilled women with young children who are keen to get back into work, but who are unable to work in an office 9-5. For WOW property, the business benefits are tangible. “We place great importance on integrity and flexibility in our company, and we’re creating an organisation that stands separate from a typical estate agent. Offering a more flexible working environment has enabled us to find agents who bring a refreshing customer service approach to the buying and selling of homes in the United Kingdom” says Kate.

“Mums, for example, are great at managing time, and have a natural skill at building rapport, and as the ‘face’ of WOW property provide our organisation with the reputation of being ‘the peoples estate agent’” Their local knowledge gives them authority in helping vendors and buyers alike in making the right choices” she adds.

Additional skills
Working mothers have a wealth of experience gleaned from their other full-time job: being a mother. They tend to have excellent time management skills, are good at prioritising, able to balance a huge number of different tasks, and are great at inter-personal skills such as negotiation and patience, says Gillian Nissim, founder, WorkingMums.co.uk.

“In addition, they are seen as a loyal and committed member of staff. Finding good employees is a difficult task coupled with the expense of recruitment. Improving retention rates of working mums can help reduce staff turnover and recruitment costs. Why would any employer want to lose this highly skilled and experienced employee?”

Therefore, it is important that colleagues and employers maintain relationships with each other and talk to each other. Both parties want to be kept in the loop. Respondents reported that occasional contact with their teams, access to work emails as well as invitations to social events during their maternity leave all proved beneficial for when it was time to return.

Tips for easing mothers back to work
There are several things an employer can do to ease mothers back into the workplace. Gillian, founder of WorkingMums.co.uk suggests:

– Before a mother goes on maternity leave, work out the contact level and regularity you would both like
– Where possible make use of “Keeping in Touch” days
– Work out what is best for the business and what solutions will fit the business
– Keep employees in the loop to make sure that their transition is smooth, e.g. refresher training, access to email, participation in team meetings (via the phone).
Gillian Nissim concludes: “Work together to achieve a mutually beneficial working relationship.”

*The survey involved more than 1,100 respondents, 99% of whom were mothers and 1% fathers.

– 45% were aged between 35 and 44, 41% between 25 and 34, 10% were either above 45 and 5% under 24. – 56% of respondents have 2 or more children; the majority have at least one child under the age of 5.
– Most were in households with an annual income of over £50k. – 50% are currently working. 75% are looking for a new job. 34% are looking to start a new job in the next month.





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