For families where women take the main caring role, the barriers to mothers returning to the workplace - then staying there - have never been greater.
One factor? The rocketing cost of childcare. According to the Family and Childcare Trust’s annual Childcare Costs Survey, there’s been a 27% rise for under-fives since 2010.
When it comes to parents of school-age children, things can be particularly tricky during half terms and holidays - not forgetting the everyday juggling act of school drop-offs and pick-ups. Over 40% of the survey respondents said there wasn’t enough flexible childcare available to them.
Mums looking to get back to work after having children are a vast resource that’s currently untapped. They often have valuable experience and skills, and be motivated, productive and dedicated - in short, all the ingredients of great employees (whether temporary or permanent).
So what can businesses like yours do to attract more parents back to the workplace, while still allowing them the time and space to take care of family responsibilities?
The key is flexible working. Flexible working arrangements can make the difference between parents staying in - and out of - work. They can mean the ability to drop off and pick up the kids from school or nursery, as well as rejigging hours to be at home when kids are ill or ease the pressure during half terms and holidays.
It’s estimated that over 14 million people want more flexibility in working hours or their location of work, not just parents but employees of all ages.
The Government website defines flexible working as ‘a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, eg having flexible start and finish times, or working from home.’
Different types of flexible working might also include:
Since 30 June 2014, all employees - not just parents - have been entitled to request flexible working after 26 weeks of employment.
But there’s no statutory right for people to appeal if a request is rejected. And according to another industry survey, one in five working mums have had to leave jobs after a flexible working request has been turned down.
Although employers are legally obliged to show they’ve considered how an employee’s different work patterns will affect their business, more than half of the working mothers questioned said they thought the reasons their employer gave were unjustified.
Flexible working isn’t just about giving employees an easier life. It means businesses choosing (and retaining) the best talent, with lower staff turnover and the necessary hiring and training costs.
And of course, it’ll also pay dividends to company culture. According to research from Ernst & Young, 82% of managers believe that flexible working benefits their business; two thirds mention increased motivation, commitment and even employee relations.
At HR GO, we see the value of flexible working. If a client searching for a permanent member of staff includes the possibility of flexible working arrangements in their job spec, it’ll only improve their chances of landing the right person for the role.
Unfortunately however, when one jobs website recently analysed 3.5m UK job adverts, only around 6% of those made any reference to it.
There’s clearly a while to go before flexible working is ingrained in the average company’s DNA. Taking steps now will mean your business is in the strongest position possible to attract and retain the best talent from the working parent pool.