Workingmums Annual Survey 2017

More than 2000 working mums responded to our survey in 2017, offering a range of insight into their experiences of flexible working, childcare challenges and maternity leave.

Woman working at laptop with baby on her lap


2,321 people responded to our 2017 survey

Key demographics of the Workingmums Survey respondents:

  • 97% are women
  • 25% are aged between 25-34 years old, 56% are between 35-44 years old, and 19% are either below 24 or 45 and above.
  • 22% earn more than their partners (up from 17% in 2016) and 17% are the main breadwinner because they are a single parent.
  • The most common individual earning bracket is between £0k and £20k per year in their last job (43%) with 22% earning between £20k and £30k per year and 35% earned above £30k per year.
  • The most common household income brackets for our user base is over 50k (41%). 14% have a household income between £40k and £50k per year and 13% have a household income between £30k and £40k per year. The rest have a household income less than £30k per year.
  • 73% of the respondents are currently working.
  • 77% have more than 10 years work experience, with 52% having more than 15 years experience.
  • 43% are management level or above, with 36% having had more than 5 years management experience.

Working mums and dads

41% of those working returned to the same job they were in before maternity leave, whilst 59% returned to a new job after their last period off work.

Career Breaks

68% of those working had 12 months or less off work before returning. 22% took between 1-6 months off, and 45% took 7-12 months off. 14% had more than 2 years away from working.

Generally women are returning to work for financial reasons (70%), although 29% wanted to continue their career path, 11% wanted a new challenge, and 7% returned to work because their children started school.

When returning to work after maternity leave, 29% returned full time, with 56% returning on a part time basis and the remainder with some other kind of flexibility (like compressed hours, for example).

51% returned to the same job they were in before maternity leave/a period of time off work.

Flexible Working

When requesting flexible working upon their return to work, 42% stated that their employer agreed with their request, and 35% said their employer considered the request and reached a good compromise. 11% had their request refused, and 12% felt that their request was not even considered.

35% had the request turned down for a reason other than that allowed under flexible working legislation

19% of those not currently working have been forced to leave their previous jobs due to flexible working being turned down.

Survery 2017

Most respondents who are working flexibly feel that they do have enough flexibility (60%), but 47% agree that flexible working has affected their career progression – and 52% of those working part time feel that their working pattern means they miss out on opportunities for career progression such as training.

41% feel that their flexible working is not perceived positively by their colleagues, and 29% feel discriminated against in their workplace due to their flexible working arrangement.

67% agree that they have to work harder to prove themselves in the workplace, to overcome unconscious bias, and 51% worry about their flexible working being taken away.

23% have a partner who works flexibly.

Working at home

For those working mums who work at home, 33% agree that they find it harder to switch off from work than they would if they worked outside the home setting.

Does working at home improve work-life balance? 37% of those who work mainly at home agree that it does, whilst 25% think that they end up working more than they would if they were in a setting outside of home.

21% of homeworkers feel left out of office decisions.

Who are we working for?

  • 6% work on a job share basis (up 2% from 2016)
  • 41% work for an SME
  • 30% work for a company with more than 500 employees
  • 21% work in the public sector
  • 8% are self employed.
  • 44% are earning less (full time salary equivalent) than they did before having children
  • 29% earn the same rate and only 27% have progressed in their salaries.


50% make use of grandparents to reduce their childcare costs (up from 46% in 2016)

31% pay nothing for childcare, 10% pay up to £100 per month, 16% between £100 and £250 per month. 16% between £250 and £500 per month and 26% pay over £500 per month (up from 23% last year).

Childcare Costs

46% say that their childcare arrangements are not flexible enough for their needs.

Of those not currently working, 51% say that childcare costs are making it difficult for them to return to work.

55% are planning to send their child to nursery once they go back to work, with 20% having grandparents help out. 12% intend to use a childminder.

40% of all survey respondents said cheaper childcare would encourage them to work full time, and 49% said Government plans for childcare help (30 hours free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds in England) would not make a difference to their situation.

50% say they struggle with after school and holiday childcare.

Respondents on maternity leave or career breaks

Most of our respondents who are not working were last in paid employment in the last 12 months (56%). 24% left work to have children and be a stay at home mum/dad (down 4% on last year’s figures), 17% were made redundant, 5% left because their request for flexible working was denied, 16% wanted a change and 10% found juggling it all too hard. 23% are currently on maternity leave.

75% of them want to return to work on a part time basis.

28% of mums currently on maternity leave had not yet discussed flexible working upon their return to work.

21% had already had their request refused on a range of grounds;

  • The additional costs will impose a burden. (20%)
  • Agreeing to the request will have a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand. (27%)
  • There were already planned structural changes (22%).
  • Inability to re-organise work among existing staff. (32%)
  • There is insufficient work during the periods the employee proposes to work.(17%)

80% of those who’s request had been refused felt that the refusal was not justified, but 65% have not appealed the decision. 57% say that the flexible working refusal means they will not return to their former job after maternity leave, and a further 30% are not yet sure.

Shared Parental Leave

37% of respondents would consider taking Shared Parental Leave.

Some 43% of those who wouldn’t take it said it would not make sense financially. However, 66% of these said enhancing Shared Parental Pay (SPP) would not make a difference to their decision. In total 59% of all survey participants said enhancing SPP would not make a difference to their decision.

Other reasons given for not sharing leave:

  • 17% of mums didn’t want to share their leave
  • 12% were worried the dad’s career would suffer
  • 11% didn’t know enough about Shared Parental Leave
  • 5% think that the legislation is too complicated

What factors make a family friendly company?

We asked all parents, working or not, what factors our users thought made a ‘family friendly company’.

Offering flexible hours for full time jobs was rated highest at 81%, followed by allowing regular work at home (72%); offering part time jobs (67%); offering more flexibility during school holidays (69%) allowing holiday days to be taken at short notice to deal with sick children etc (64%); Helping with childcare (56%)

Less important were enhanced maternity/parental pay, networking and support groups and parenting courses.

Starting a business

58% have considered setting up their own business. The biggest reason by far given for considering starting a business or franchise is the need for greater flexibility – 36% said this. Others reasons given were wanting to be their own boss [15%] and that they had always wanted to set up their own business [17%]. While 68% of women were just thinking about starting a business, 15% were already in the early stages of setting up and 10% were working on a business plan. Access to funding was seen as the biggest challenge.


64% of women were interested in retraining. Twenty per cent had retrained in the last 12 months. 71% said they would be more likely to retrain if courses were more flexible.

Nielsen Survey Sponsor 2017

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