October 23, 2014
The expansion of flexible working rights was not only intended to improve workplace wellbeing and productivity, but encourage mothers to remain in the workforce. But it seems there is much work to be done to convince women that work and motherhood can mix. New research from the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) has found that half of women believe that having a baby poses such a risk to their career that they would consider remaining childless. The survey among women of childbearing age also found that two-thirds of women (67%) are concerned about the impact that having children might have on their career and half of the women who don’t currently have children (49%) feel their current career doesn’t offer them the flexibility they would need to care for a family. Over half of mothers (55%) admitted that balancing childcare and work has been a barrier to staying in work, with one in five (20%) stating that a lack of support from their employer has made life as a working mum more difficult.
The survey of 2,000 women, half with children and half without, also found that half of mothers have missed at least one milestone in their child’s life due to work: 16 per cent of mothers missed their child’s first word, 15 per cent missed their first steps, and one in five (20%) have had to miss a sports day or school play because of their job.
The pressures on working mothers have also taken their toll on maternity leave – of the mothers questioned, almost four in 10 mums (38%) took six months or less as maternity leave. Overall, financial reasons were cited as the biggest concern and main cause for returning (62%). Worryingly, the survey indicates fear of losing their job is the biggest driver for almost a third of mothers returning to work (30%).
AAT Career Coach, Aimee Bateman, commented: “AAT’s findings, whilst sad, are unfortunately not surprising. In my work I have come across a lot of women who worry about balancing their care and career commitments or who have decided to retrain as their current role provides little flexibility.
“This is a shame as working mums are brilliant employees who can often get more done in less time. This is what is important: the quality of work people produce, not the number of hours that they sit at their desk.”
The research found that many women are considering re-training as a way to give them greater flexibility once they are parents. Almost a quarter of women (24%) have changed their career after having children, with a further two-thirds (65%) saying re-training is something they would consider. The most frequent reason cited was the option to work flexible hours (64%), followed by wanting or needing better pay (48%).
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 42 per cent of working women aged 16-64 have part-time hours and that in 2013, 72% of mothers were in work. A study by the Fawcett Society in August found that since 2008, almost a million extra women have moved into types of employment that are typically low paid and insecure and that, v 1 in 4 of all female workers are now classified as on low pay.