What Matters Most

S4K was keen to find out that when it comes to bringing up baby, if flexibility is the number one priority for working mums.

A new survey has revealed that over two thirds (72%) of working mums would stay in a job they dislike if it provided greater flexible working. One thousand working mums were questioned for the research about their views on working and life balance. The results were quite striking with almost two thirds (64%) saying they would choose working flexibility over salary and just over half (51%) said they are considering giving up work completely due to the cost of childcare.

S4k was keen to find out if our readers agree… That when it comes to bringing up baby, flexibility is the number one priority for working mums.

Safeena Ahmed agreed that flexible working was the most important benefit to mums in the workplace and believes that employers should help employees to maintain a better work-life balance by offering flexible working. She said, ‘I think it is more attractive to have flexible working hours as it gives you a greater sense of responsibility, ownership and control of your working life.’

Parent Naomi Manderson emailed in to give her us her view. She wrote: ‘I am a single mum and was shocked such a high percentage of women would stay in a job just for flexibility. This is very important to me, however job satisfaction is also paramount. Working mothers need to strike a balance between work and children, which is hard to do. It is sad that so many mothers are also contemplating giving up their careers completely due to high childcare costs. The government should do more to assist those who want to work with better subsidies in childcare. I also appreciate though, from an employer’s point of view, that it is hard for smaller businesses to be as flexible as large corporate companies.

‘Now that my son is 15 I have finally struck a balance and retrained as a nurse. My salary is lower than what it would have been if I had stayed in business or teaching, but I now have job satisfaction working in intensive care and flexibility to spend time with my son. I hope in the future other mothers are able to find a balance and do not have to leave work as it is important to work for self-esteem and mental health.’

Joanie Brown, commenting on our Facebook page also sympathised with the employer’s position saying, ‘I think at the moment it is difficult for businesses to accommodate working mothers’. Joanie suggested that, ‘Crèche facilities in big businesses might help?’ She continued, ‘Either way working mothers should never face discrimination of any kind and fathers also need to pick up the slack.’

‘The expense of childcare’ was the reason cited by Eileen Molloy as the main culprit discouraging parents to choose to work shorter hours but she also felt that there was discrimination against mums in the workplace saying: ‘Some bosses hate to employ you when you have children which is so unfair.’

Chris Meredith CEO of LondonOffices.com who carried out the research said of the results “I find it concerning that workers are willing to live an unhappy work life just to get the balance they require. Surely that would impact a person’s overall quality of life? I think that’s wrong. Our survey clearly shows how strongly valued a flexible working arrangement is. Even in two income households, the cost of living and pressure to maintain income levels forces tough decisions about childcare and work life balance as a whole”

Chris also stated: “We need to see a shift in employer attitudes towards being much more flexible to workers with young families, especially companies that are serious about retaining and attracting talent. Employers must offer support for working parents or risk losing good people. The long-term return of looking after good staff could far outweigh the cost of setting up properly flexible working arrangements.”

Asking for flexible working

In Scotland anyone can ask their employer for flexible working arrangements, you do not have to be a parent or carer.

You must:

Have worked for your employer for 26 weeks continuously before applying.

Make your application in writing, highlighting the change you require e.g. part-time, staggered hours or flexitime.

Include an explanation of how you feel this could affect the business and how this could be dealt with.

Under the law your employer must seriously consider any application you make within three months, and only reject it if there are good business reasons for doing so. You have the right to ask for flexible working – not the right to have it. Employers can reasonably decline your application where there is a legitimate business ground.

Employees who do not have the legal right to request flexible working are of course free to ask their employer if they can work flexibly and many employers are willing to consider such requests.

Find out more at gov.uk

S4K’s view Any working parent will identify with the need for flexible working and the huge difference it can make in reducing childcare costs. However it seems a shame that flexibility in working hours is still rare enough in employment that mums are prepared to put up with a job they dislike in order to have it. Hopefully more employers will start to introduce flexible working and recognise that a happy employee is a much more productive one.

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