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With the right to ask for flexibility now extended to everyone who wants it, and 76% of UK employers now offering at least one form of flexible working, it would be easy to think that we’re well on the way to a truly flexible workforce. But listening to the views of women on the ground, it becomes clear that that’s not yet the case.
Our sister organisation, Women Like Us (WLU), offers training, support and mentoring for women who want to get back into work after having children, from courses and workshops to one-to-one career coaching. We ask all visitors to WLU to complete a short survey, and the results show that we still have a way to go.
Whilst 41% of respondents who have worked part time said it was a positive experience, 23% said they had trouble with being given interesting work or being treated as part of the team. Equally disappointingly, 27% said they got stuck in a part time role and couldn’t get promotion or find a new part time job with an appropriate salary.
And finding or keeping a suitable job has also proved harder than we would have hoped for our returning mothers. Shockingly, 10% of them were made redundant during or on their return from pregnancy. What’s more, 17% have had a part time request turned down by an existing employer, and 12% have been asked questions relating to children at an interview, and then not got the job.
It’s no surprise, then, that more than half of the mothers we surveyed felt they needed help finding a job that fits with their family, and around 60% needed guidance on finding a new career direction. Our colleagues at WLU are happy to provide this help, and Timewise will continue to champion both flexible working and flexible hiring. But we need employers to play their part too.
The good news is, they don’t have to do it alone. We’re happy to share our experience and insight with employers through our Timewise training and consultancy programmes, and we work in close partnership with organisations who want to push the boundaries of flexible working. And our specialist jobs board is scoured daily by talented individuals who want to work in this way.
Research has shown that working flexibly improves staff motivation and retention without affecting productivity; so what are we all waiting for? It’s time for employers to get behind flexible working and offer returning mothers, and everyone else, what they really want.
To find out more about our training and consultancy services, call 020 7633 4444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
 CIPD 2012: “Flexible Working Provision and Uptake”
 Cranfield University/Working Families 2008: “Flexible Working and Performance”