A recent report from the European Commission revealed that more mothers in the UK are failing to return to their jobs after maternity leave. Compared to other mothers around Europe they there are twice as many women who were unemployed or only working part-time due to family commitments. The EU average is 6.3%, whereas in the UK the figure stands at 12.5%.
The report referred to this as a “social challenge” and one the government was taking steps to overcome by improving childcare provisions and increasing the amount of free childcare available to working families.
But is this the only reason?
While improvements in childcare provision are important, to actively reduce the figure goes far
beyond childcare. Businesses realise that with more mothers failing to return to work it is leading to a reduction in the pool of talent from the workforce. To avoid this employers must understand that there are other issues that need addressing to support mothers back to work.
The decision to return to work is not always a financial one. What can hold one back is confidence and self belief. The voice in your head that says “Am I actually capable of going back?” can create fear and doubt.
A lengthy spell of maternity leave can often undermine confidence and the fear of having gaps on their CV’s can lead to mothers feeling disconnected from the world of employment and intimidated. Therefore it is imperative that organisations and employers get behind these women and concentrate on rebuilding confidence and sharpening skills, remembering that development is possible at any stage of a career.
Companies should make sure that they have programmes and procedures in place that offer support to those returning. Remember it can be tiring and daunting to re-enter a competitive environment whilst still having to care for young children. It is the employers responsibility to offer encouragement and the tools to make this transition as smooth as possible.
Skills training, access to networking and mentoring can play a crucial role in helping women feel prepared to return to the workplace, placing them in contact with their peers who are, or have been, in similar circumstances.
The demand for a skilled workforce increases year on year and mothers form a major part of that skills pool, so employers have to invest in programmes that address the barriers that may prevent mothers returning to work, ensuring that they and the country avoid a skills shortage.
For further advice on women returning to work take a look at Women Like Us.