A survey by workingmums.co.uk has shown that over a fifth of working mums feel forced to leave their jobs because their flexible working request was turned down. 62% of mums returned from maternity leave to a new job — up from 59% in 2014. This survey included the views of over 2,300 mums. Of those who had flexible working turned down, over half said they felt the reasons given were unjustified. Some 13% who appealed were successful, but 77% didn’t appeal.
It found that 38% of those still on maternity leave would not return to their jobs if flexible working wasn’t granted, but, despite the importance, 46% of those on maternity leave had not yet discussed it with their manager. The importance is underlined by 56% saying that they would accept less pay for flexibility.
Most companies choose not to raise the question prior to maternity leave, because it can be difficult to foresee the company’s needs at the time that the employee wishes to return and perhaps feel that it could put pressure on the employee to make decisions that she is not yet ready to make. The right to request flexible working was extended to all employees last year and the new policy has a less rigid timetable for employers as well as no statutory right to appeal if a request is turned down.
Claire Bond, Director at Bond Williams, comments “The survey underlines the importance of flexible working, in all its forms, for working mums with 58% choosing it as the most important factor for their career progression. It also indicates that many employers fail to retain the skills of employees after maternity leave. There is a big demand for homeworking – the most valued form of flexible working and the most likely to encourage women to work full time. There is room for a lot of creative thinking on how to make work culture more family-friendly. It can easily be viewed as too expensive for businesses to move to more agile working patterns, but the survey demonstrates the costs of not doing so in terms of the loss of skilled staff.”
Interestingly, another piece of research has revealed that a fifth of businesses in the UK are planning to hire more returning mothers than they did a year ago. This survey, conducted by global workplace provider Regus, involved 4000 senior UK business people.
These companies were found to view returning mothers as having an important role in the overall economy and the respondents emphasised the importance of flexible working in attracting female talent; 81% believe that it is key to attracting and retaining women workers.
Additionally, returning mothers were viewed by the respondents as:
– loyal and less likely to change jobs, saving firms recruitment and re-training costs
– valuable for their experience and skillset, as well as reliability and excellent time management
– very hardworking and caring workers
– driven in their performance, perhaps feeling they must prove their worth
So, employers would be wise to consider flexible working not as a costly exercise, but a way to tap into an important talent supply. Offer returning mothers a way back into the workforce could actually create savings and advantages in the long run.