It is no secret that shifts happen in careers when becoming a parent. However, the extent of this varies across many parents. To understand this further, Careering into Motherhood conducted a survey on working parents, which goes into detail on working mothers.
The survey that was conducted with 2,152 working mothers with children under 18 years old found various insights on how becoming a mother has affected careers. Among them, concerns around work flexibility, career opportunities and work routines arose.
Balancing work and family has never been easy, which has caused working parents to adjust both sides.
Adjusting Work Routines
The survey found that 89% of the mothers have changed their work routines since becoming a mother. Time restrictions due to childcare are some of the many reasons why patterns have changed significantly.
In conversation with Tessa Harris, Senior Employment Lawyer at Redmans Solicitors, she admitted that her working hours are now more restricted since becoming a mother. “My time to get my son means I have to finish work slightly earlier, which means that I have to effectively condense my hours, so my lunch times are shorter,” she said.
“Fake” Flexibility for Working Mothers
Flexible working has become a more common option since the pandemic. This meant many working parents are now able to adopt more flexible working hours to accommodate childcare. The UK Government has also concluded a consultation on flexible working, allowing employees to request flexibility from day one of employment instead of the current requirement of at least 26 weeks.
However, many working mothers feel like the flexibility that they are given by their employers has resulted in “fake” flexible working. The survey found that 40% of working mothers complete work-related tasks outside of working hours.
Despite having flexible or reduced working arrangements, many working mothers are still expected to do work equivalent to full-time. Although 92% of working mothers say that their employers are open to flexible working, this does not mean that the amount of work is also adjusted.
“In my previous jobs there has definitely been an expectation that regardless of my hours, being ‘part-time’ worker, I’m still expected to be actually fulfilling a full-time role,” said Harris when asked about her experience with “fake” flexible working. Further, she mentioned that the more senior you are the higher your expectations are – regardless of working hours and arrangements.
What Needs to be Improved
Currently, economic inactivity among working-age adults continue to become a concern since the beginning of the pandemic. It is believed that balancing home and work is a major driving factor for this phenomenon. Many are saying that if support for working mothers does not improve, it will drive working mothers out of employment.
When asked about what she would like to see happen to improve support for working parents, Harris mentioned that better childcare support is needed. Currently, the UK only offers 30 hours of free childcare for children in England between 3-4 years old. As a mother of a child under three, Harris must work around her schedule to ensure proper childcare. Lowering the age to 2-4 years old is believed to be a significant help for working mothers like her.
Additionally, support for working mothers with flexible or reduced working hours is also needed. To ensure fairness, employers must acknowledge that with these arrangements, expectations must also be adjusted. It is unfair to expect employees working reduced hours to be able to fulfil the amount of work of full-time workers.
Overall, more education and training regarding working parents are needed. Employers must deliver the right practices to support working parents. Helping employees reach that work-life balance will increase employee retention and maintain talent within the company.