Workingmums Annual Survey 2009 – Results

1677 people responded to our survey.

Key demographics of our respondent base

-99% are women

-33% are between 25-34 years old, 47% are between 35-44 years old, and 20% are either below 24 or above 45

-56% of have 2 or more children; 51% have at least one child under 5, the other half having at least one child over 5 and under 16

-Our user base is becoming more affluent – the most common household income bracket is over 50k (21%) – last year it was between £20k and £40k

About their job search

-45% of the respondents are currently working – the rest are not working at the moment, including those on maternity leave

-77% are currently looking for a new job opportunity

-68% of these are looking to start within the next 2 months

Mothers who are currently working

47% went back into the same job they were in before maternity leave, with the majority (55%) working in a new job after a period off work. 31% of respondents were off work for between 7 and 12 months, with 38% off for less than 7 months, and 31% off for more than a year. 11% have returned to work earlier than planned due to the recession.

The overwhelming reason for returning to work at all was that they needed the money (69%), but many also returned to work because they were at the end of their agreed maternity leave (31%).

21% wanted to continue to follow their career path and 19% wanted a new challenge. 25% returned to work as their circumstances had changed, or the children had gone to school.

Of those who returned to the same employer after maternity leave, 60% returned part time. 24% went back to their jobs full time and 16% went back with another kind of flexibility such as compressed hours, working at home etc.

Of those working part time, 57% stick to their contracted part time hours only. 32% find they are working between 1-5 extra hours per week, and 11% work between 6 and 10 extra hours per week. 65% of part time workers who are working overtime do not get paid any extra when they work more hours than their contracted amount.

How did they feel about returning to work?

31% rated high on feeling apprehensive, 37% were nervous and 37% were worried about travel and logistics. 60% felt guilty about leaving the children, and 26% were concerned about other colleague’s perceptions. 31% rated high on feeling excited about going back to work, 32% were confident, and 27% calm.

80% of mothers think that flexi-hours are very important to them


In terms of how important different types of flexible working is to our respondents, even if they are not able to work in this way at the moment, almost all of the different types of flexible working available were rated as very important.

Flexi-hours – 80%

Part time work – 72%

Working at home – 54%

Term time only work – 42%

Compressed hours – 28%

There were very few who did not think that some kind of flexible working was important to them.

Of the working parents who responded, 71% considered their job to be flexible, very flexible or extremely flexible. 53% say they are earning less than they were before having children, even if they were to work full time on their current rate of pay (so this is not due to a reduction in hours).

How supportive was their employer?

Most of the working mums who responded considered that their employers were supportive (76%), with 24% considering their employer to be unsupportive.

29% of mums who asked for flexible or part time working hours upon their return to work were granted what they asked for, with 32% reaching a good compromise. 15% say that the employer considered their request but did not grant it, or did not consider it at all.

Whilst on maternity leave

During maternity leave, 11% used some of their 10 ‘keeping in touch days’, 26% did not use any of this entitlement, and 64% did not know about the entitlement. 21% say the would have liked more contact with their employers during their maternity leave, whilst 15% would have liked less! 64% thought the level of contact was about right.

30% of our base continued to receive invitations to, or attend, work related social functions, and 37% maintained regular contact with members of their team or firm. 21% had access to work emails, and a mere 5% had regular work meetings.

Non-working parents

55% of the respondent base are not currently working – this also includes those on maternity leave.

Of these, the length of time they have been out of work breaks down as follows;

Within the last 6 months – 37%

7-12 months ago – 19%

1-2 years ago – 20%

3-4 years ago – 10%

More than 4 years ago – 15%

14% are currently on maternity leave, 27% have been made redundant – 14% last year, showing the negative effect of the current financial crisis. 37% have left work to have children and be a stay at home mum. 5% have left work because their request for flexible working after maternity leave was refused, 8% found juggling it all too hard, and 8% are not currently working as they wanted a change.

Of those currently on maternity leave, 48% have not yet discussed the option of flexible working hours upon their return. This is very high – as many employers would expect to have some initial discussion before the employee left for their maternity period. 10% have already agreed their flexible conditions, 9% are currently negotiating and 23% have had their request refused (21% last year). 10% do not want flexible hours.

49% of mothers currently on maternity leave are not aware of the ‘Keeping in Touch’ entitlement. 34% would like to make use of it and 17% would not.

When asked what has represented a barrier to returning to work for the mums, not many of them considered lack of confidence a barrier (only 30%). Bigger barriers were cost of childcare – 55% rated this highly – lack of available flexible jobs (72%), lack of appropriate flexible jobs (73%), wanting to be a stay at home mum (40%) and guilt (42%).

54% of the mums say they would definitely accept a job which paid less than they had earned before in return for flexible working conditions, and 40% say they might do this.

The current economic climate has not affected mothers in their quest to seek flexible working conditions – 79% say they still need to find a job which offers some degree of flexibility.

Why do mums go back to work?

As reflected in other questions, the overriding reason mums seem to return to work is that they need the money (93%). However, emotional factors seem to play a part – 72% want to work to boost their self esteem, 63% want adult company and 54% want to get out of the house. Career factors also play a part – 53% want to continue on their set career path, and 83% enjoy their job.

Working full time

79% say that homeworking for some of the time would encourage them to work full time.

Other factors which would encourage mums to return to full time work include;

-Flexible working hours – 74%

-Finding a job close to home – 68%

-Job Satisfaction – 58%

-Working term time only – 55%

-Understanding employer – 48%

-Cheaper childcare – 46%

-Compressed Hours – 43%

Family friendly policies and flexible working rights

Offering flexible hours for full time jobs, and allowing some regular work at home both came out top in terms of what our parents think makes for a family friendly employer (85% and 82%). Other factors and their ratings; Offering part time jobs – 76%, allowing short notice holidays to be taken (for sickness cover for example) – 76%, offering more flexibility during school holidays – 74%, helping with childcare – 67%. Only 31% thought extending the maternity pay period makes for a family friendly company.

68% of our audience were aware of the extension of the flexible working rights for parents, or had some idea about it.

What is hard about going back to work?

Overall our mums thought most aspects of being a working mum were on the difficult side – 68% said arranging childcare/after school care was very difficult, or difficult. 72% thought leaving the children was difficult, 59% said that getting everyone ready to leave on a working day was hard, 42% think fitting in all work related tasks is difficult, 67% say fitting in all home related tasks is hard. And 27% agree that dealing with comments and/or a strained atmosphere from co workers was hard.

Why should employers employ working mums?

We asked our working mums why they thought employers should employ working mums. Here is a selection of their responses;

“On a per hours basis they are more productive than other employees as they have to multi task.”

“Experience, commitment, focus – why not?”

“Commitment – most working mums put in double the effort for a flexible post that allows them to work around their children.”

“Contrary to the beliefs of some, mums often choose to go back to work because they want to be there for personal fulfilment.”

“we get more done in less time – better value for money!!”

“They are just as conscientious regarding their work as any other employee with no children.”

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