Flexible working: Why employers need to change their attitude

When you meet a fellow mama there are a few hot topics that will break the ice every time.

These are issues that everyone will have something to say on, from how you’re sleeping to the endless feeding.

But there’s no subject that can stir up quite so much irritation in me as returning to work after maternity leave. More specifically than that, the request for flexible working.

I’ve lost count of the number of mums I have met who are dissatisfied with the deal given to them by their employer. I’m not talking about the difficulty in balancing the cost of childcare vs what you actually take home in pay, that’s another rant altogether and if you want to read more about my feelings on that particular sore point check out this post here about childcare costs.

Nope, I mean the inflexibility of so-called flexible working and more specifically, the attitudes that exist around the subject of women returning to work after having a baby.

Time and time again I hear the same things from friends and new acquaintances:

I wasn’t allowed to start earlier and finish by 3pm so I could do the school pick up.

I had to be at my desk by 8am and nursery doesn’t open until then.

I wasn’t allowed to reduce my days to three per week.

I was expected to continue doing long-distance travel.

I asked to work from home one-day a week but was turned down.

I could go on and on. There are dozens of scenarios from women who had a LOT to offer a company. Not least because they had already been working for that company for a period of time before they became so selfish they just had to pop out a baby (honestly how dare they).

These are women who have already proven themselves time and time again to their employer. An employer who gave them a job in the first place, dolled out praise about their abilities left, right and centre, but then wouldn’t give these women the flexible working hours they requested.

Why after women have had a baby are employers not interested in giving just an inch so that they can be focused on work 100 per cent of the time they are in working hours?

There are so many ways to make employment work for new mums. Many jobs can be done from home these days, particularly office-based ones. When it comes to meetings, these can be conducted over Skype or Zoom.

The traditional working hours of 9am to 5pm are not set in stone. Why does it have to be this or nothing?

Finding the compromise is easy, as long as it’s a two-way conversation.

There needs to be a willingness to work together. But from the stories I have heard, I think many people are faced with employers who will say no at any cost, no matter what suggestions are put before them and no matter how talented the employee.

Sadly I think there is still a very outdated attitude towards women that automatically writes them off after they have had children. And in addition to that, there’s a negative attitude towards women who request fewer hours, as if we are going to be off on jollies the rest of the week while everyone else in the office is still slaving their guts out. Hello! We have kids to look after. Being in the office is like going on a summer holiday!

For me it boils down to being indicative of the fact we still live in very much a man’s world. Even today, in modern Britain.

Attitudes need to change. And they needed to change a long time ago!

We’re not just talking about a tiny proportion of the population here. We are talking about all mums. That’s a huge percentage of the workforce and a lot of them are out there wanting to do some kind of work.

Figures from the fabulous Pregnant Then Screwed organisation show that 54,000 women lose their jobs for getting pregnant and 390,000 working mums experience negative and potentially discriminatory treatment at work each year.

What a huge loss to the workforce to have so many skilled professionals forced out of the workplace because they were not allowed to work from home or they were told it wasn’t possible to take every other Friday off work.

So just for clarity to anyone who gets a flexi working request land on their desk and rolls their eyes as they mutter about “bloody liberty-takers”:

Having a baby is not an inconvenience, it is a universal occurrence. A lot of people do it. It’s part of normal every day life. Stop treating it like it’s a problem.

Having kids is a life-changing event. You need to give a little to make room for this life-changing event. No, we are not the same as we were before we had a baby. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do the job we were doing beforehand.

We don’t just have the skills we had before going on maternity leave, we have more now.

Before you automatically go to respond “computer says nooooo”, stop and think. How can we make this work for us both. Is it really an issue if Barbara doesn’t arrive at work until 9.30am on Mondays and then leaves at 2.30pm on Fridays?

Think about what you are losing by failing to hang on to this loyal employee.

Imagine the possibilities if you have an extremely happy and motivated workforce.

Ask yourself, can you really afford to rule out nearly half the working population from your workforce?

Have you experienced discrimination after falling pregnant or having a baby? I would be really interested to hear your stories.

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24 Comments

  1. January 29, 2018 / 3:49 pm

    The amount of institutional discrimination against parents – most often mothers – is absolutely staggering. I also feel a lot of it is covered up, and methods like gaslighting or unjust reviews given to mums to shift them aside in favour of someone who can work extended hours (who is also being exploited because just because they can, should they..? Surely all should work the paid hours?).

    • January 30, 2018 / 8:34 am

      Yes totally agree with you there! It’s an absolute scandal

  2. January 31, 2018 / 8:26 am

    I totally agree with this. Times have changed and it’s about time employers caught up. Women are incredibly hard working and if we want to make the most of this workforce we should become more flexible. x

  3. January 31, 2018 / 9:27 am

    I agree with this too! Woman have to juggle so much – flexibility in the work place would encourage Mums to make the most of being a working Mum rather than seeing it as a negative experience!

  4. January 31, 2018 / 10:10 am

    Great post on an issue I feel very strongly about. Employers need to think about output and productivity before hours, be that the timing of those hours or number. Most working patterns are arbitrary anyway #fortheloveofblog

  5. January 31, 2018 / 11:12 am

    I agree, luckily we are allowed to work flexible hours so I start work early and leave early but as I do the school run in the morning – it means I have to drop my kids off earlier. Also why is it when your kids are sick and you need time off from work – eyebrows are being raised.#fortheloveofBLOG

  6. Jenny Curtis
    January 31, 2018 / 11:34 am

    I think a lot of businesses are ‘old-fashioned’ in their thinking. If flexible working was a policy for all workers (and not just treated as something working mother’s are offered) then there would be a lot more acceptance. People without children could take advantage (going to the gym when it’s less busy, doctors appointments, caring for relatives etc) and all could work at a convenient time. #fortheloveofBLOG

  7. January 31, 2018 / 11:42 am

    Great post that speaks volumes about flexible working, I thought I was lucky in that I got the job with what I thought were my part time hours, only to be told I would also be on call too! How could I manage on call with a baby who is attached to me pretty much every waking and erm sleeping moments?

    As it worked out, my employer was not so flexible after my little one was poorly for the second time and decided that it wasn’t quite the ideal arrangement!

    There is a big movement for equal rights for women…but it does seem to stop once you have children! It needs to change…then don’t get me started on child care costs

  8. January 31, 2018 / 12:12 pm

    Interestingly enough, my employer has just send a load of stuff around about this as part of a new initiative to encourage more women to go into higher grade / managerial roles. Let’s see how this pans out but fingers crossed!

  9. January 31, 2018 / 3:05 pm

    As a Dad who always planned to be involved and take time for his children it’s always disappointing to see posts that ignore the view point of the Dad or co-parent as in some ways they suffer the same issue,
    furthermore the institutional issue of “why would the Dad need flexible hours for his kids?”. Maybe I am lucky but all my employers have been willing to be flexible with me so long as I am flexible with them. It works both ways and can’t all be take take take. I even had one offer me work at home days to cut down travelling to the office and be around for the kids. Not all employers are bad.

    • January 31, 2018 / 3:06 pm

      #fortheloveofBLOG

  10. January 31, 2018 / 4:26 pm

    I have been so lucky to have a small work environment in our office of 4 (all of whom are parents) who always pushed me out the door if daycare called or my baby wasn’t feeling well. It breaks my heart to hear my friends talk about their work places demanding robots instead of humans. Always hoping to hear of change!
    #ForTheLoveofBlog

  11. January 31, 2018 / 6:22 pm

    It needs to change, simple as that. I just hope we are paving the way for our own children to be free of these obstacles. #fortheloveBLOG

  12. January 31, 2018 / 8:10 pm

    It’s problematic – both for the worker and the employer. I can see both sides. #FortheloveofBLOG

  13. February 1, 2018 / 10:02 am

    Love this post and could not agree more! I faced massive discrimination from my employers whilst pregnant and when I returned to work with my first baby. I’m currently on maternity leave with my second – but luckily work for a much better company now! #fortheloveofBLOG

  14. February 1, 2018 / 2:33 pm

    Very sad to say it but from my own (brutal) experience I have found that it is women that are worse than the men at saying No. #fortheloveofBLOG

  15. February 1, 2018 / 3:20 pm

    I understand how you feel. That’s why my husband and I decided for me to resign and be a stay-at-home mom. Once I go back to the workforce, I will make sure it’s family- and baby-friendly.

  16. February 1, 2018 / 7:38 pm

    It is so hard to find employment which is truly flexible-working friendly. I was allowed to drop two days, but the hours themselves became hard to work around whilst managing nursery and school drop-offs. After I had my third it was pretty much unmanageable, which is why I jacked it in and went freelance! Great post #fortheloveofblog

  17. February 2, 2018 / 5:30 am

    This is so true here in the United States as well, and most places here do not offer any paid maternity leave. Plus, when you return, everyone acts like you were on vacation, and maternity leave is NOTHING like a vacation. Great post! #fortheloveofblog

  18. February 2, 2018 / 8:08 pm

    Great post and I am so glad it’s being talked about more, just hope employers start listening more!

  19. February 2, 2018 / 10:27 pm

    I was interviewed for a job and got it. I then found out I was pregnant and they tried to withdraw the offer. Fortunately I knew my rights so got the job but my boss never treated me fairly thereafter and so my mental health was affected. So much needs to change so that women can continue to contribute to society and work having given birth. And we need to keep talking about these issues so well doneyou ‘fortheloveofBlog

  20. February 3, 2018 / 2:34 pm

    I agree with Lydia above, it is complicated for both parties.
    #FortheLoveofBLOG

  21. February 5, 2018 / 1:24 pm

    I’ve been really fortunate with the company I work for. I work 4 days a week but do full time hours which means I only work 2 days at a time with Wednesdays off! But now i’m being made redundant self-employment calls so my hours for blogging will be 24/7!!!! #fortheloveofBLOG

  22. February 5, 2018 / 6:31 pm

    It certainly seems that things are in favour of the employer and they are missing out. #fortheloveofBLOG

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