The organisational benefits of looking after working parents are well-known. How far have we really progressed when it comes to offering opportunities to parents returning to the workforce?
Almost three-quarters of Australian businesses said that working mothers bring valuable skills and expertise to the workplace, while 89% believed that companies that do not employ women returning from maternity leave are missing out, according to research from global workplace provider Regus.
The survey showed that 93% of businesses said that flexible working hours would help returning mothers, 63% reported that more women wanted to work remotely when returning to the workforce, and 43% said working closer to home was a key factor for returning mums.
Meghann Ashby from Regus said it was high time that Australian companies addressed the issue of how to adapt business practices to better suit working mothers.
“Businesses need to embrace mothers returning to work – the evidence is clear that they bring key skills to the workplace. One way to do this is to provide flexible methods of working. It is really not surprising, that more and more mums are asking for flexible working.
“Whether it’s flexible hours, the opportunity to work closer to home or to their families at least some of the time, or the option to choose video conferencing over business travel, these changes incentives are key to helping more women back into employment and driving the workplace into the future.”
Paul Migliorini, CEO of Regus Australia and New Zealand, said bringing women back into the workforce and having measures that allowed them to increase their participation had huge economic benefits for Australia.
“There's been a perception that there might potentially be costs associated with retraining people who have been out of the workforce for a significant period of time, there might have been fear that mothers coming back into the workforce would want to leave again when they wanted to have more children, therefore creating continuity risks.
“I don't think those risks are as apparent anymore because historically, the nature of work has been defined by the amount of time you sit at a desk during working hours and that's not the case anymore. Work is inherently more flexible. Technology allows us to work with people in different ways – collaboration tools allow us to work across boundaries in ways you could never do before.”
He said that in some cases, working mothers came back to work for additional cash flow, but were not necessarily the main breadwinner in the household.
“There's an advantage there for an employer because you might get really highly-skilled people who will see different value in having flexible hours. You get better levels of loyalty and reward and I think you get higher levels of engagement because the working mothers are in the workforce because they really want to be there, it's not just a job.”
The research showed that 52% of small businesses were planning on hiring working mums, compared to 43% of large firms.
Migliorini said that small businesses could sometimes be more flexible in terms of how they packaged work, bigger businesses found it more difficult to adapt quickly.
“Big businesses recognise that opportunity and HR departments are reconfiguring themselves to do it, but small businesses have done it more quickly.”
What workplace measures do you see as being most important for working mothers?