Working Mums – the greatest balancing act

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Working mothers motherhood penalty

Working Mums – the greatest balancing act

Fram has always had a pay gap in favour of women, and we employ a number of working mothers. We thought we’d ask them to share their personal experience.
Working mothers - motherhood penalty

Working mums are a large, growing, and somewhat untapped labour force. 75% of women with dependent children in the UK are in work, which is the highest level for 20 years. However, whilst flexible working arrangements have helped, the pandemic was nevertheless particularly hard for working mums, who did more than double the amount of unpaid work at home, were more likely to be furloughed, and who were 47% more likely to lose their job than fathers. Women’s careers were significantly impacted by the pandemic, and the ‘motherhood penalty’ was already leading to less pay increases, promotions and access to work before that. Arguably, the pandemic has halted and reversed much of the progress which was made in recent decades.

Childcare is one of the key obstacles to returning to work, and the UK has the highest childcare cost in the developed world. Costs for children under 2 has risen by more than £2,000 a year since 2010 (TUC), whilst maternity pay has gone down in real terms in the same period.

Fram has always had a pay gap in favour of women, and we employ a number of working mothers. We thought we’d ask them to share their personal experience.

Emily Tomlin

Emily is an Associate on our sales & marketing practice, and her son is nearly 2 years’ old

Returning to work after having my son was one of the most daunting things I have ever done, emotionally and financially. They are only young for such a small amount of time and the emotional pull between wanting to be there every day and watching my son grown but also wanting to bring in an income as I had always done.

I have had two different experiences with returning to work. One employer wanted me to jump straight back in from where I left and the other who acknowledged that I had different priorities and a little boy at home. For some mothers I know that carrying on as if nothing had changed would work for them, but for me everything in my life had changed after having my first baby and I wanted to work with people who understood that.

The decision to return to work is difficult especially in the world we live In right now when the average wage doesn’t cover the average childcare cost so you really have to think about why you are returning to work. For me it was wanting to be around like-minded people and actually get a break from being at home.

Emily Tomlin - Fram Search
I found the whole process is made so much easier if you have an employer who supports you and how you want to address returning to work. Mums don’t want to feel lesser just because they wanted to have a family and actually I think there are so many benefits to companies employing mums; more patience, empathy, thinking outside the box and so many other great qualities that I have seen from so many women.

Fiona Wallace

Fiona Wallace - Fram Search
Fiona is our office manager, and has a son and a daughter aged 23 & 19
It is a big decision to plan returning to work after having a child.  One of the biggest challenges for me was trying to find suitable childcare as I did not have any family able to help me.  The nurseries all had long waiting lists and it seemed that you had to put your name down before your child was born to be in with a chance of getting a place when you planned to return to work.  It is a stressful time emotionally leaving a child that you have been with since they were born and it is important to find somewhere, or someone, that you trust will do a good job.  Choosing the type of childcare depends on your financial circumstances.  If you are commuting you have to factor in the times your childcare provider operates and be able to get back in time to pick your child up.  From personal experience of commuting into London I found it to be very stressful when there were commuting difficulties and putting up with angry faces when I arrived at the nursery after the closing time through no fault of my own and the guilt that you feel about your child being there all day and was tired and wanted to go home.

Nurseries and childcare providers need to be more flexible in their operating hours.  Now that flexible working is the new normal it may be easier to balance working from home and just commuting a few days a week but it is essential that you have childcare in place when you are working from home.  Children are demanding and should not be left in front of a screen to entertain them.  If you are fortunate enough to have family that can help you this is clearly the best option and saves a lot of money.  However this shouldn’t be taken for granted and there should be a back-up plan in place for days when they can’t help.

Some employers already offer childcare vouchers and depending on your income and the child’s age there is some financial help available.  Nurseries are very expensive but for some are the only option to have childcare available all year round.  At the end of the day it is a hard decision to make when you weigh everything up whether or not to return as it may not be financially viable to do this.  It may be that you will have to consider working part-time instead of full-time and work locally to fit in with your childcare arrangements. I would recommend keeping in touch with your employer throughout your maternity leave and being honest about how you feel about returning to work.

From my experience I found my employer to be very amenable and they offered options for me to consider, including moving to part-time with more flexible hours.  If things do not work out after returning to work speak to your employer and let them know, there may be something else you can do.

Kelly Biggar

Kelly heads up our wealth management practice, and has a 14 year old son

Like most returning to work mums the guilt of leaving your child is one of the hardest things to deal with, and I am not sure employers can do much to help with that. However, they can make the transition easier. Unfortunately, my employer at the time only offered one week’s maternity pay for every year served, so after my 4 weeks it was back full time or no pay. If employers could offer a more flexible alternative when returning back to work, especially within the first few months as a new parent you are running on fumes and most probably not working to your full capacity anyway. A staggered return would have suited me, a couple of days to start with, building back up to full time would have relieved the emotional and financial pressure a bit.

I think the main thing an employer / manager should be is understanding. Everybody’s parenting experience is different, there are times when it can be emotional, mentally, and physically draining. Children get sick, they can hurt themselves they can have bad days and as a parent you are on 24 hr call. An employer needs to be flexible and understanding, the more they do this the more of a loyal employee base they will build.

Kelly Biggar - head of wealth and investments
The cost of childcare is a massive issue faced by most parents. I was very lucky; my mum retired a month before my son was born so she was my childcare, but I am not sure how we would have managed otherwise. I have two stepdaughters who are dealing with this issue at the moment. One is a newly qualified teacher, so my grandson has to be in childcare Monday to Friday 8:00-4:30 and the cost is extortionate and causes a massive financial strain on her and her partner, especially as they have just brought their first house. It would be great if more employers offer benefits such as childcare vouchers or even a onsite crèche. Subsidised by the firm and topped up by the parents would be a fantastic employee benefit.  Returning to work mums are a massive untapped skill set, but once you factor in the cost of childcare, sometimes it is not worth them returning to work.

Gayle Waller

Gayle Waller - Fram Search
Gayle is an Associate with our Investments & Advice practice, and has two sons aged 11 & 14

My overall experience of the whole process was excellent.

I was able to have the following maternity package:

  1. 6 months full pay
  2. 3 months statutory
  3. 3 months un-paid leave.
  4. KIT days to smooth the transition back into work

I was really lucky that I was able to move from a full-time role into a part time role to support my work / home life balance.  I was also very fortunate that my parents looked after the boys, so I didn’t have the issue of childcare fee’s etc.

The only slight challenge I came across was if the boys were poorly. If they’d have been in nursery or a childminder it was more acceptable to have a dependence day (if that makes sense).

Covid has changed ways of working for a lot of people and I’m hoping more part time / flexible roles have come of this to support working Mums / Dads who really want to do a fantastic job but also be there for their children.  More options around working more hours in school term vs school holidays needs to be looked at. Thank you Fram for supporting me with that😊

Childcare especially over the 6 weeks school holiday prevents families spending time together as parents have to take time off at different times to look after their children.

Amie Haines

Amie is an Associate on our Corporate Functions practice, and as two daughters aged 1 and 3

Having returned to work twice after babies my experience has been extremely varied, On the first occasion I knew my employer could not guarantee any flexibility or that I would be able to finish work within my contracted work hours. This was just the nature of the job and something I accepted early on.

I was very lucky that my previous employer took me back with open arms and helped me get the shift plan that worked along side my husbands meaning we only needed to put our daughter in childcare for 2 days per week. We were very lucky and grateful for the support we were given as this meant I got to go back to work (almost full time), I had 4 days off a week so I could spend time with my daughter and financially I didn’t have to send most of my wages to the nursery!

Whilst pregnant with my second daughter, I started thinking about childcare early on. Our circumstances had changed as my husband was now working Monday – Friday, I had submitted a flexible working application which had been accepted but we soon realised that working shifts with 2 small children was not going to work. I took a slightly extended maternity leave to try and figure out what I wanted to do…. The easy answer was stay at home but after 14 months I knew I needed to be at work.

Amie Haines - Fram Search

The stars aligned and whilst browsing for jobs one night I came across the Job advert for my current role at Fram and pressed send they offered me the days and hours I had requested.

The biggest challenges facing parents who want to return to work after having children are workplaces understanding the need for a little more flexibility, and the rising costs in childcare being over and above the ‘everyday’ salary. If changes are not made to the current “childcare system” less parents will be able to return to work until their children are in school full time.

About Fram Search

Established in 2010 by Simon Roderick, a recruiter with 20 years City recruitment experience, Fram Search is a specialist financial services recruitment consultancy. We focus on permanent and interim recruitment in the UK & internationally.

We provide high quality contingent and retained recruitment to boutiques and global brands. We have long established relationships and access to deep talent pools. Fram takes a highly consultative approach, and we have a quality over quantity ethos. We are proud that our contingent fill rate is nearly three the industry average and we augment our retained search methodology with rigorous psychometric testing. Champions of diversity & inclusion, all staff have undertaken unconscious bias training.

Please contact us on 01525 864 372 / [email protected] to learn more.

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