The recent report from gender equality charity, the Fawcett Society and Totaljobs have found that fewer than one in three working mothers have access to effective flexible working arrangements. This is something that will come as no surprise to mums like me.
The Flexibility Stats Don’t Lie
The report found that 84% of mothers faced challenges coming back to work from maternity leave and 30% received no support at all. On top of that, 19% have considered leaving their job for one with better support while a further 11% actually left. Although none of this is a surprise, it’s still disappointing to read. True flexibility means trust from employers and that is something that many working mums don’t have.
As a working mother, I’ve worked for several companies since having my first child and have had issues in most of them. Seemingly simple requests like swapping a day off to accommodate childcare or taking 15 minutes out of my day for the school run have been commented on and sometimes flatly refused. It’s exhausting to have to constantly ask for flexibility and dread the answer.
Fighting for Flexibility as a Working Mum
In one company, I was in a position where I had to pick up my daughter from across town one day a week in the afternoon. It meant I would be away from my desk for about half an hour one day a week. But would work longer in the evening. My boss at the time made out they were fine with this arrangement as long as I asked permission. Fair enough, I thought.
Only, I soon realised that I couldn’t have a blanket pass for every Wednesday. I had to bring it up and request it every week. It soon became stressful when the requests were met with sighs and comments. Such as ‘not every boss would be as accommodating as me you know’. A simple request ended up becoming so stressful that I made arrangements for my husband to do the pick-up. Which was much less convenient for him, but I just hated the humiliation of asking all the time.
But in that situation, at least I was given the time off…grudgingly. In another job, I had a boss who was also a part-time working mother. I once had a childcare issue and needed to swap my day off. But instead of solidarity, my request got squashed. I was told that I couldn’t ‘pick and choose’ my working days. Despite being in a job that could easily accommodate this and it being my only time asking. Needless to say, I didn’t stay in the role much longer after that.
Time for Employers to Embrace the Flexible Future of Work
I am just one out of possibly thousands of women who have come across this issue. I’ve moved jobs a few times to try and find the balance I need to juggle family life with work. If employers would realise this, they would save themselves so much hassle in re-recruiting. Working mothers don’t take the mickey. They always make up their hours and work until the job is done. And it’s seemingly only noticed when they are unreachable for 15 minutes out of the day.
Although I’m now in a better place professionally, I can always spot the stressed-out working mums during the school pick-up. They’re the ones with their phones constantly in their hands so they can refresh Teams every 10 seconds.
If employers educate themselves about the challenges faced by working parents and embed flexible working patterns into their work culture. We’d all be a lot happier. Mums would stop having to pretend they don’t have children and finally ignore Teams for half an hour.
If you’re a working Mum in need of a role with an employer who supports flexibility, check our flexible job platform.