One in five mothers forced out of jobs due to lack of flexible working

One in five mothers forced out of jobs due to lack of flexible working


Nearly one in five working mothers have been forced to leave their jobs because a flexible working request has been turned down, according to research carried out by Workingmums.

The survey of over 2,000 women found over a quarter of working mothers have had a flexible working request turned down. Meanwhile 12% of respondents said their employer did not even seem to consider their request at all and 27% said the reason given for turning down the request was not one which is allowable under flexible working legislation.

For women currently on maternity leave the figures were higher. Some 35% of those who had had a flexible working request turned down had had it rejected on grounds other than reasons which are allowable under flexible working legislation, while 68% said they did not feel the rejection was justified.

Two in five of those respondents on maternity leave said refusal of flexible working would mean they might not return to their job, but half said they had not discussed flexible working before going on maternity leave.

The survey showed availability of flexible working is the key career development issue for working mothers, with some element of homeworking the most valued factor, particularly for those wanting to work full-time. Other barriers included childcare costs; half of women currently on maternity leave said childcare costs could prevent them returning to work.

The research also found many employers are failing to retain the skills of working mums after maternity leave. Some 60% of women who responded to the survey said they changed jobs after maternity leave and 58% said they are interested in starting their own business or becoming a franchisee, with 40% of these actively pursuing ideas and plans. Research has shown that the ability to be more in control of their hours – not necessarily to work fewer hours – is a key driver for those women who want to start businesses after having children.

The survey also showed:

  • Job shares are still not used by many employers. Only four per cent of women said they were in a job share, despite 55% wanting to work part-time
  • 57% of working mums struggle with holiday and after school childcare
  • 46% use grandparents to reduce childcare costs
  • 38% pay no childcare costs as they use family/friends to cover pick-ups or work school-friendly hours

Gillian Nissim, founder of Workingmums, said: “When I founded Workingmums ten years ago, it was difficult to find flexible new jobs and many women who were working flexibly felt their careers had been sidelined. We’ve come a long way and many now see the huge business benefits of creating a more family friendly workforce. Our survey shows ten per cent of women describe their job as extremely flexible, for instance. But there is still more to be done to create the kind of workplaces that work for people who need flexibility, for whatever reason. That means encouraging and supporting employers to implement flexible working so that they do not lose employees who typically have years of experience in their roles.

“While flexible working may not be possible in some cases, it is worrying to see that 12% of women who said their request had been turned down did not feel it was even considered at all. Under flexible working legislation employers have a duty to deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’. We also have concerns about the weakness of the legislation around the right of appeal and clearly the survey bears out those concerns since most who had their request rejected while on maternity leave did not appeal, even though 68% felt the reasons given for the rejection was not justified.

“Workingmums would like to see more efforts made both to promote the case for flexible working more widely and to educate women about their rights with regard to the legislation. We would also like policymakers to look at the case for reinstating a statutory right of appeal if a request is turned down as this would send an important message to employers that they must give serious consideration to requests and not just dismiss them out of hand.”

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

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