Almost half of working mums have considered setting up their own business because it gives them so much more flexibility than corporate jobs, according to community site WorkingMums. Most of the members who responded to its survey suggested that flexible working was top of their wish-lists – but about one in four of their employers aren’t offering the support they require. As a result, talented women are shunning corporate life in their droves to start more family-friendly businesses – which is bad news for big companies…
So what constitutes a family-friendly employer, exactly? Well, the most popular answers were flexible hours and the ability to work from home, closely followed by the potential for part-time work, flexibility around emergency cover or school holidays, and support for childcare. But generally speaking, working mothers don’t seem to be a particularly materialistic bunch – extended maternity pay came way down the list, with less than a third citing this as a must-have for a family-friendly employer.
But a lack of flexibility isn’t the only reason mothers aren’t going back to work. As you’d expect, the majority found child costs to be a barrier, while 30% cited a lack of confidence as a big issue (perhaps that’s not surprising either, given that UK plc seems to doing relatively little to retain them).
As a result of all this, women are now less likely than ever to maintain a full-time job after having children. The survey found that just 24% of its working mums work full-time, while 60% are in part-time employment. And their pay packets inevitably diminish as a result, with 53% now earning less pro rata than when they went on maternity leave. Although again, cash doesn’t seem to be king among this lot: more than half have opted to take a less well-paid job in return for flexibility.
We can’t help feeling that UK plc is missing a trick by allowing all these talented people to slip through the net – these figures suggest that the flexible working policies trumpeted by many big corporates are just not having the desired effect. On the other hand, their loss is the SME community’s gain: perhaps some of these ‘mumpreneurs’ (yes, we know it’s a horrible term, forgive us just this once) will come up with some of the great British businesses of the future…
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