In a survey of 1,700 women undertaken by Workingmums.co.uk, a jobs site for working mums, results show that women don’t expect the earth from their employers when they have children. Indeed, all they want is flexible working.
The survey found that 85 per cent of respondents considered flexible working the most important requirement of a family-friendly employer. Only a third mentioned extended maternity pay and support for childcare. Indeed, working mums were far more impressed by an employer’s willingness to offer some homeworking or flexibility around emergency cover than any preferential treatment.Karen Ovenden, director at IT recruitment firm Hireserve, agrees with the findings “There are many well-qualified professionals out there looking for flexible working, most of them women," she says. "I feel very strongly that there are so many women out there who are exceptionally good workers and committed but cannot find positions where they could have a career and be with their children.
"It works for SMEs, too," she continues. "When they are starting out they might need just a few hours of professional advice, which will suit mums of very young children, and then as their children get older and the business expands, they can grow with it. It’s perfect.”
Gary Reid, manager of creative agency Nude, has no problem employing mums. “About a year ago, some of our full-time staff left and we employed freelancers, many from London agencies who had years of experience and many who were parents," he explains. "It was a lightbulb moment. They wanted to do fewer hours, but their productivity was better. We have seen that through working flexibly we can attract top class creatives who are fed up with the kind of inflexibility they sometimes face in some of the big agencies, but without having to pay them inflated top-agency salaries."
And employing staff who keep unusual hours can be a real plus. "One member of our staff is a working mum with two children who works mostly at night, from 6pm to 12am," says Reid. "That would be seen as a negative traditionally, but it means if we get late work in she can get a headstart on it and the client could have some work by the next day. In other professions, people with the most experience get paid more or receive other benefits. In the creative industry, they tend to move more to the periphery, move out of London and go freelance, often doing bits and pieces for SMEs and others, but not working on the same big projects they used to in the past. It’s a terrible waste of talent if they are leaving because the culture is too inflexible for the way they live.”
Do you employ working mums in your business? Are you a mum trying to get back into work? Tell us about your experiences and post a comment below, or join the debate in the Real Business forum.
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