Number of Working Mothers Has Increased, But One in Five are Still Paying “Motherhood Penalty”

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In recent years, the number of working mothers has witnessed a notable increase, reflecting a shift in societal norms and the evolving role of women in the workforce. While this progress is undeniably a positive development, there is still a significant issue that continues to plague working mothers. One in five of them is paying a heavy “motherhood penalty.” 

This penalty is a burden that working mothers bear, affecting their careers, finances, and work-life balance. In this article, we will delve into what the “motherhood penalty” is, explore the latest statistics from the Fawcett Society and Totaljobs, and discuss how employers can attract and retain working mothers.

READ: Tackling Organisational Culture Issues Will be One of the Key HR Priorities in 2024

What is the Motherhood Penalty?

The “motherhood penalty” is a term used to describe the disadvantages and discrimination that working mothers often face in the workforce. It encompasses various challenges, including the disproportionate impact of childcare responsibilities on women’s careers and finances. Additionally, it also covers the difficulties in finding flexible work hours and career progression hurdles. 

This penalty is particularly acute in the context of the gender pay gap, with women being paid less than their male counterparts for the same or similar work.

Research by Fawcett and Totaljobs

Recent research commissioned by the Fawcett Society and Totaljobs sheds light on the stark realities faced by working mothers in the United Kingdom. The survey involved 3,000 parents of children under four and revealed key findings:

  • Motherhood Penalty Prevalence 

The research indicates that one in five (19%) mothers of young children have contemplated leaving the workforce, either temporarily or permanently, due to the challenges of balancing childcare and their careers. In contrast, only one in ten men reported similar feelings, underscoring the stark gender disparity.

  • Childcare Challenges

As childcare costs continue to rise, 30% of mothers reported struggling to find flexible work hours. Fathers also experienced similar challenges, but to a lesser extent, with 17% of men facing difficulties in finding flexible work.

  • Career Progression Hurdles 

The survey found that 34% of mothers and 22% of fathers believed that their career progression had been hindered by childcare responsibilities. These challenges often lead to stalled career advancement, affecting the financial well-being of working mothers.

Motherhood penalty

How Can Employers Attract and Retain Working Mothers?

To address the “motherhood penalty” and support working mothers in their career journeys, employers can take several steps:

  • Implement Flexible Work Arrangements

One of the most significant demands from working parents, especially mothers, is flexible working arrangements. Employers should proactively implement and promote flexible working options. This could be remote work, flexible hours, and job-sharing opportunities. This flexibility allows working mothers to better manage their childcare responsibilities while maintaining their careers.

  • Affordable Childcare Solutions 

High childcare costs are a significant contributor to the “motherhood penalty.” Employers can explore ways to offer childcare support or subsidies to their employees. This can include on-site childcare facilities, subsidies for external childcare providers, or flexible spending accounts to cover childcare expenses.

  • Career Development and Mentorship

Companies can invest in career development programs and mentorship initiatives to help working mothers advance in their careers. Providing guidance and mentorship can enable them to overcome the obstacles associated with the “motherhood penalty” and reach their full potential.

  • Equal Pay Policies

Employers should prioritize equal pay policies to eliminate gender pay disparities. Ensuring that women are paid equally for their work not only addresses the gender pay gap but also reduces the financial burden faced by working mothers.

READ: Flexible Working Is For Lazy Employees Claim CEOs

  • Parental Support Programs 

Establishing parental support programs can significantly benefit working mothers. These programs can offer resources, workshops, and counselling to help parents manage their work and family responsibilities effectively.

  • Transparent Family-Friendly Policies

Employers should communicate their family-friendly policies clearly to all employees. This includes parental leave, flexible work arrangements, and other benefits aimed at supporting working parents. Transparency helps working mothers make informed decisions about their careers.

  • Diverse and Inclusive Work Cultures 

Fostering diverse and inclusive work cultures is essential to creating an environment where working mothers feel valued and included. Companies should actively promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in their workplaces.

For a complete guide on employee benefits, head to the guide on the Redmans website.

The “motherhood penalty” remains a critical issue that needs to be addressed to ensure equal opportunities for working mothers. While progress has been made, the gender pay gap and the challenges of balancing work and family life continue to affect women disproportionately. 

By implementing the strategies outlined above, employers can contribute to a more equitable and supportive work environment for all working mothers, allowing them to pursue their careers without sacrificing their family responsibilities. It’s essential for businesses to recognize the talent and potential of working mothers and to take action to eliminate the “motherhood penalty” once and for all.

If you require advice or guidance on employment law matters head to the Redmans website. To get in touch with our team of expert employment lawyers, click here


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