Mothers returning to work after maternity leave are frustrated at the huge lack of part-time opportunities to further their careers – that’s the major finding of a recent survey conducted by Mothers Mean Business (MMB), an organisation that offers support, guidance and online help to working parents.
The UK-wide survey – which canvassed the views of women from a wide range of industry sectors and varying levels of seniority – revealed that while part-time employment is the most popular choice when returning to work, the vast majority of women feel that this has damaged their career prospects.
A large number of respondents (71%) returned to work part-time after having their children, but the benefits in terms of providing a time balance between work and caring for their families are outweighed by other factors, as the survey revealed:
- 83% of respondents feel there has been a potential or definite limit to their career options – not through lack of ability or skills, but simply because they work part-time
- 71% of respondents haven’t received a promotion since working part-time
- 42% of respondents said they had received negative comments from colleagues after switching to part-time hours
- 51% said they felt they’d taken a step back in their careers because they worked part-time hours
- Only 19% of respondents felt their career hadn’t stalled due to a lack of progression in working part-time hours.
“Our survey provides concrete evidence that more needs to be done to promote the expertise and experience that working mothers can provide,” said Abbie Coleman, founder of MMB. “Women should be judged on and rewarded for their abilities, regardless of their parental status or how many hours they are contracted to work – something that MMB has been championing since the beginning.”
MMB was launched in October 2015 by Abbie, a business woman with 15 years’ experience in the recruitment industry. After becoming a parent herself in 2013 she realised that there was an urgent need for a rich resource for working mothers, bringing together crucial information, career advice, support and job opportunities all under one organisational roof. Thus MMB was born.
Support for MMB’s cause has come from a variety of high profile working mothers such as TV star Angela Griffin, best known for her appearances in Lewis, Waterloo Road and Cutting It; Team GB para-cycling athlete Caroline Wareing and Apprentice star Claire Young.
“Our survey also pointed out some positives, namely that 23% of respondents believe their employers understand and embrace part-time working, while a further 17% said that their employers are making a concerted effort to adapt.”
Marie Walsh Employment Law Partner and Owner at Consilia Legal LLP agrees:
“The results of this survey are a little disappointing but not surprising,” she said. “We all need to work together in the private and public sectors to redress the balance in respect of part time workers who often work more efficiently than their full time equivalents but with less recognition. Discrimination legislation does assist to a degree but overall it’s a general change in attitude that is required.”
Acas has produced a guide and Code of Practice on flexible working to help businesses and employers manage flexible working requests in a reasonable way and avoid any pitfalls. Acas Head of Equality Steve Williams explains why:
“Many employers recognise that they can retain talented staff by offering a flexible approach to work and a healthy work life balance can help business success and growth.
“Businesses should treat all their workers fairly to help them stay within the law and avoid any potential legal action for pregnancy or maternity-related discrimination.”
With more change needed, Abbie concludes:
“I hope that what I’ve achieved in the early days of MMB will inspire other parents – both men and women – to pursue the flexible career paths that they seek, in order to advance and enrich their professional and family lives. I’ve instigated change, for the benefit of myself and others, and I think the content, format and tone of MMB is empowering more people to pursue the careers and salaries they deserve.”