The ongoing debate as to whether a woman can really ‘have it all’ has been pushed to the forefront again with the results of a new survey from RecruitIreland.com in association with MummyPages.ie, which confirms the difficulties faced by mums trying to balance home and working life.
• 95% of mothers would switch jobs for more flexibility
• Less than two-thirds of mums who ask for flexible hours get them
• Almost two-thirds of mothers report financial difficulty during maternity leave.
Poor work-life balance for mums in employment is primarily caused by a lack of flexibility in the workplace, with 95% of all working mothers surveyed saying they would apply for a new role if it offered a more flexible working environment. While two-thirds of mums said that they have asked for more flexible working hours – but just over half of those were given them. Almost half (49%) of women think that part-time or shorter working weeks are a great option for mums, while 20% believe job-sharing can work out better. Only 15% of mums who have worked a shorter week are unhappy with this arrangement due to the full workload still expected of them during these compressed hours with a lower salary. 10% of mums do not advocate a career break while the children are small due to the difficult nature of getting back into employment after this time.
Financial security during maternity leave is of major concern to women looking to start or grow their family with many admitting to assessing their current role based on its maternity benefits. 9 in 10 women admitted to searching for a new role to get better benefits when planning their family. While 43% of women considered delaying their baby plans due to a lack of or poor maternity benefits in their workplace. Employers seem to be waking up to this fact however with 58% of mums availing of a part or fully topped up maternity package compared to 50% last year.
However, almost two-thirds of mums still claim to have experienced financial difficulty while on maternity leave. 9 in 10 mums said that they simply couldn’t afford to live on the State Maternity Benefit alone of just €230 per week before tax, and 95% think the Government should encourage all employers to top-up their maternity benefits. 53% of mums saved extra money before their maternity leave to help bridge the financial gap, however a further 42% of mums still could not afford to take any portion of their 16 weeks entitlement to unpaid leave at the end of their paid 26 weeks of maternity leave.
Childcare remains a huge source of stress for new parents with two-thirds of mothers saying it was their main worry going back to work. While 45% of mothers said the cost of childcare has prevented them from returning to work. 9 in 10 mums think that the Government should introduce a childcare tax credit for working parents in the next Budget, with 10% basing their decision as to whether to add to their family on this result.
Other important findings:
• New Tax on Maternity Benefit – there was no improvement in financial awareness amongst mums this year with 43% not understanding the tax system applied to maternity benefits introduced in 2014.
• Career – only 29% of mums this year are interested in developing their career after having a child, down from 42% last year. Many mums are happy to continue in their role as before, while 36% report having less ambition since having a baby. 1 in 5 mums reported feeling anxious that their colleagues would see them as less committed to their role since having children.
• Return to Work Rationale – the main reason for 77% of mums returning to work after having children is purely financial and 44% of mums said they wouldn’t return to work if they didn’t have to. 1 in 10 mums said they needed mental stimulation, 6% felt they needed social interaction with adults, while 7% of mums said they loved their job and couldn’t wait to get back. Just 13% of mums said they felt ‘ready’ to go back to work.
• Wellbeing – 62% of mums said their stress levels were higher in work since having a child, pointing to the strain that the juggle of home and family life places on them. While 68% admitted that their energy levels were lower on returning to work from maternity leave.
• Worries – Confidence and self-esteem were the two biggest worries for mums returning to work, who cited body image and their mental agility as their prime areas of concern. 66% worried about their childcare arrangements, while 27% were worried that their role wouldn’t be the same on their return. 1 in 5 feared that their maternity leave replacement would have done a better job than them. 15% stressed that they’d come back to a huge backlog of work.
• Return to Work Preparation – 37% of mums returning to work started batch cooking or bought a slow cooker. 28% met up with colleagues to catch up on office gossip, while a further 27% bought a new work wardrobe or changed their hairstyle. 15% employed a weekly cleaner to help with the housework.
• Mummy Guilt – 88% of working mums experience some form of mummy guilt. A sick child tops the triggers for mummy guilt
• Childcare – 32% use a childminder, 31% use crèche, and 27% a family member. Last year, crèches topped the list.
• Working Hours – 69% of mums returned to work in a full-time capacity after having a baby, 19% transitioned back to work using parental leave and holiday days to create a shorter working week, while 12% got the part-time hours they were looking for.
• Dads face their own issues – just half of fathers surveyed said their workplace offered paternity leave, an increase of 10% on last year’s survey. However, there was a decrease in the number of dads who have taken parental leave – down from 32% to 18%. This could be directly attributed to how flexible employers are in facilitating parental leave, with only 54% of this year’s dads stating that their workplace was flexible compared to 71% last year.
According to Laura Haugh, Mum-in-Residence for MummyPages.ie, Ireland’s largest online parenting community:
“Our mums are struggling financially on maternity leave and emotionally upon their return to work. While some of our mums welcome the mental stimulation and social aspects of returning to work, it simply doesn’t outweigh the huge mummy guilt they feel having to leave their young children in childcare. While the decision to return to work is financially necessary for most of our mums surveyed, the cost of childcare has prevented nearly half of our mums in returning to work. It’s time for the Government to step-up and put proposals into concrete action, the new National Childcare Proposal is a 10-year plan – we need action now.”
“Of course, it’s understandable that a third of mums who have returned to work after having children report a lower level of ambition when it comes to their career. Most women’s priorities shift considerably for those early years of parenthood, and while they are fully committed in delivering on the responsibilities of their role, their ambition to climb the corporate ladder lessens. That said many mums change their career after children, with many reporting experiencing an epiphany whereby they need to be doing a job they love if leaving their children for it. Some use their maternity leave to upskill or retrain, while others develop small businesses having spotted gaps in the market, usually related to children. Mum’s careers generally peak again as their children get older and become more self sufficient.”
According to Sinéad Johnson, Commercial Manager for RecruitIreland.com:
“Flexible working options to include working from home on some days, starting earlier and finishing earlier, working mornings only, moving to a part-time hours or job-sharing can all go a long way to easing the childcare and emotional stress that mums are feeling. Employers should be cognisant that in recruiting the best talent for new roles, mums are an excellent resource pool often overlooked. Small businesses in particular can get quality, experienced mums who can hit the ground running at half the price by employing them on a part-time basis. This could equate to the same salary as full-time junior member of staff but with better or similar output levels. We’re delighted to offer any advertiser who wishes to advertise a part-time or job-share role over the month of September a 15% discount in an effort to source more roles for parents returning to work.”