Attention: Do you know what working mothers really want?

by Stephanie Zillman09 Jan 2013

Recent data has revealed that working Mums who return to work are more concerned about having flexible hours than taking additional maternity leave.

When asked to prioritise six return-to-work scenarios, working Mums overwhelmingly reported that flexible hours come in at number one. Just 5% of returning mothers said they would opt for longer maternity leave. Employers can have their working mothers back from leave sooner, but is HR willing to accommodate the post-baby flexibility? According to Emma Walsh, founder of Mums@Work consultancy, the way organisations tackle the return to work transition has improved but there is still a long way to go. “I think there’s been a significant shift in the last six years, and we’ve seen much more willingness to acknowledge a need for flexibility for people with families, from a time when a lot of parents almost had to pretend they didn’t have kids, and just get on with it.”

Walsh says successful re-integration is achievable, but employers must sit down with the returning employee and discuss a ‘job redesign’. “So often Mums go in with unrealistic expectations about what can actually do. The focus needs to shift from what they can’t do, to what they can do.”

Associate Nurse Unit Manager (ANUM) Emergency Department, Tianay Hyndam, says she was delighted to return to work on a casual basis following her maternity leave. “For me, stepping back into the workforce was made easy by the option to work casually. Many of my nursing friends from other workplaces struggled to re-enter the workforce because of a lack of flexibility," Hyndam said. “Many felt they had no other option but to join a nursing agency in order to gain the same level of flexibility – but unfortunately this meant they had to work across different hospitals in various areas of nursing, adding the additional stress of a new work environment,” she added.

In addition to flexible working hours and extensive time off, working mothers ranked the following scenarios as the most important in TheLadders annual working Mums survey:

  • Ability to work from home
  • Convenient working hours
  • On-site day care

Working mothers are eager to return to the office when it is a comfortable and rewarding transition, and employers must adjust for the unique needs of working mothers which will help drive employee satisfaction and retention, Alex Douzet from TheLadders commented.


  • by Kelly 9/01/2013 2:42:20 PM

    It is also true for working Dad's. My husband is the primary care giver and flexible working hours are just as important to both of us.

  • by Kirsty 14/01/2013 2:53:34 PM

    I would like to add that we can extend this thinking to encompass all the working Dad's whose role in the home has changed and require flexibility as well. Secondly, this is not just about before school age. Many employee's struggle to balance the inadequate or absent care arrangements available for school age children and younger teenagers. Something has to change in the education sector as well to recognise and address the changed needs of the community has since the 9-3 school day of the 19th century was implemented. This is a community, education and social policy issue, not just an employer challenge.

  • by Nick 15/01/2013 2:21:19 PM

    Definitely agree that the deisre for flexibility applies to dads as well. I've been fortunate to arrange a 4 day working week so that I can have a 'daddy day' with my young kids.

    There was some resistant at first, but 3 years on I've shown it works. Now my next challenge is to achieve career progression whilst maintaining this flexibility.

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