According to new research, women are less likely to progress at work following the birth of a child compared to new fathers. The study from the universities of Bristol and Essex found that less than a third of women were in full-time or self-employed work three years after childbirth, compared with 90% of new fathers.
The same survey also revealed that where they do return, it is more common for women to suffer economically and become stuck while there is no real impact on fathers. In fact, more than a quarter of men were promoted or moved on to a better job following the birth of a baby while the comparative figure for women was 13%.
With more women choosing not to return to full-time work after having a baby, vital skills are being lost to employers and the economy at a time when we are already faced with an endemic skills shortage. No to mention the personal impact this will have on families.
So, how can employers help mothers wishing to return to the workplace after having a child?
Represent’s founder, Judith O’Leary, understands the challenges of juggling motherhood and career, having struggled to balance her life as a mum of three along with a demanding job in PR. When Judith’s children were babies, employers then weren’t so enlightened on women’s rights, not to mention parental rights!
At Represent, Judith champions employer support of working mothers so that her employees benefit from the support and flexibility that wasn’t on offer when her kids were born. Here, she shares her advice on how employers can help new mothers return to work following childbirth.
On the right side of the law
It is non-negotiable that employers must comply with current legislation around employee maternity rights before and after a period of maternity leave – not only will this prevent them from falling foul of employment and maternity discrimination laws, but it will ensure that the working mother is supported in making smooth transition from leaving work, to childbirth, before her return. Gov.uk is a great resource for helping companies stay within the law when it comes to maternity, adoption and paternity rights.
Share the knowledge
Employers should make it easy for expectant mothers to understand their entitlements by being open with key information prior to maternity leave. This will reduce anxiety and stress at what is an already emotional time and may even make it easier for expectant mothers to think about returning to work at a later date. At Represent, we work with an accountancy and tax adviser to ensure our employees are as clear as possible about what will be paid whilst on mat leave, including how this will be taxed and affect pension and student loan contributions.
Signpost to support
To help demystify other entitlements outside of the workplace, employers should keep up to date with sources of information that help working parents navigate the sometimes-complex benefits system so they can assess their eligibility for further financial support. Widespread prohibitive childcare costs are leading mothers to reduce working hours following childbirth, or step away entirely from their career path. Financial support such as the government’s tax-free childcare has helped some of my employees with childcare costs, enabling them to get back into work more easily – but it’s this information that isn’t openly advertised.
The return to work
Whilst an employee is on maternity leave, employers must keep their positions open for their return. It’s unfair dismissal and maternity discrimination if an employer says someone can’t return to same job after ordinary maternity leave (26 weeks or less).There should be no change to the role and main duties, including the level of responsibility that employee held prior to leave, and pay and conditions must be the same if not better. There should also be an option of working flexibly.
Stay in touch
‘Keeping in touch days’ have provided a great way for the Represent team to stay in contact with employees during maternity leave. Beyond being a legal entitlement, they can help the employee keep a hand in at work while on leave if they want to, whether that’s to attend some training or a meeting, or simply return to work on a more phased and supported approach. Employees can carry out up to ten days of paid employment without affecting their maternity status or pay so it’s a win-win for all!
At Represent, we regularly review our company policies on flexible working, taking into account the ways we can adapt to accommodate a returning worker’s request. This can sometimes be achieved through offering reduced or compressed hours, a change to working hours or even job-sharing.
Represent are proud to support women at work, including working mothers. To find out about working with us, please get in touch with us today.