Working mums: we need a rethink about flexible working

Working Woman


According to the latest Office for National Statistics 74% of mums with dependent children are in work with 49.6 per cent working fewer than 30 hours in their main job, excluding overtime. released the results of its annual survey last week. Sponsored by McDonald’s, it shows nearly half of women say flexible working has affected their career progression, with 54% of part timers saying they miss out on career progression opportunities. Despite this, there is a big demand for greater flexibility, particularly flexible hours and 56% worry their flexible working will be taken away. A quarter [25%] of mums work full time with no flexibility and 40% of those who work flexibly feel they don’t have enough flexibility.  Here some of the respondents explain their own situation and views on how to improve things.

Sheila is a PA/Sales Executive from the West Midlands. Before having her two children 10 years ago she was an online consultant for an insurance company and earning a lot more pro rata. She was told sales consultants could not work part time. She cannot progress her career in her current flexible role – she works around her children and her husband’s shift patterns –  and doesn’t use all her skills and experience.

Asked what needs to change, she says: ” Employers need to consider that offering flexible working is a modern approach to life and that they can tap into a resource pool of people that are just as qualified and have experience and knowledge but just need there employer to consider a flexible approach rather than the standard 9-5 that everyone works. This would be a win win for everyone – as a working mum you want a balanced work life and flexible working option allows this.”

Mother of four Sonia from Essex used to be a PA to management in a private bank, but says the job and the more than three hours a day commute were too exhausting. She is not a teaching assistant in a local school on £9k per annum – £21k per annum less than she was earning before. She uses hardly any of her skills apart from computer and time management skills.

She says “Companies should make it easier for people to work remotely,  which would cut out the need to commute. They should also have a way to allow parents to have more time off during which less experienced people could cover their absence and gain experience.” She adds that companies should address bias by treating each employee equally, starting with pay and time off; not making mums feel guilty for taking time off to look after their families; and making opportunities for progression easier by making the requirements clear and not operating a “boys club”.

Kam from West London worked as a beauty therapist at a waxing and laser company before she had her two children. She is earning at least half of what she was earning before she had her daughter as she now works a zero hours contract and she doesn’t feel she is being paid a fair wage. She would like to see things becoming more equal for mums and dads.

Mum of two Tanya from Hampshire was an office manager and executive assistant to a senior bank manager before she had children. She is now a part-time PA and self-employed bookkeeper, having retrained after her husband left. She is earning £7,900 per annum less than she was in 2003. She would like to see a rethink on childcare and greater use of technology to support flexible working, particularly homeworking. She thinks mothers are “hugely undervalued by both men and women”.

“There needs to be a concerted effort to make sure that industry leaders understand the value this could be to their company.  Parents often need flexibility but, in return, they work very hard to make sure that they can continue to do so,” she says.

Jennifer Page got her current flexible job through She used to be an HR Business Partner in a large US bank and is now an HR consultant at Currency UK.  She switched because of the long hours and lack of flexibility at the bank and is earning almost £27k a year less pro rata. However, she adds that that figure does not take into account that her career would have progressed if she had stayed and her salary would have gone up. She hopes eventually to get back up to that level and says the impact is probably more pronounced because she had two children quite close together and they are still only one and three. She feels she uses her skills and experience in her current job.

Jennifer says she would like to see childcare options become cheaper and more accessible and for companies to start expecting men to have the flexibility to pick up children. “We need to think beyond maternity leave,” she says.

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