Returning to work after raising children is a personal decision. Some women do and some women don’t. For those women who do want to go back to work, whether it be just a year or considerably longer, there are challenges in doing so.
But it’s easier than ever before for women to return to the workplace. We tell you why.
How Britain Compares With Other Countries
In the UK, 75.1% of mothers with dependent children worked in 2019; this is up from 74.2% in 2018. This number has grown from 66.2% in 2000.
When compared to other countries around the world, Britain actually ranks quite high compared with others that have managed to increase the number of working mothers in their workforces. France and the Nordic countries are leaders in this area but the UK is not far behind. This is a testament to how UK employers are encouraging and making it easier for women to return to work after becoming a mother.
What’s Caused This Rise in Working Mothers in the UK?
When you look at the statistics, there are clearly a few forces at play that have resulted in this increase.
Change in Relationship Patterns
For women born in the 1940s, more than 80% of them cohabitated with their romantic partners before age 25. However, that number drops to 60% for women born in the 1970s.
Also, 60% of women born in 1945 had given birth to at least one child by the age of 25. Compare that with women born in 1945, where only 31% fit into this category.
A Shift in Cost of Living
Previously, it was a simple life. Men and women fulfilled stereotypical gender roles where the man would be the main breadwinner and the woman would either work part-time or be a full-time housewife. This was especially true after they had children.
However, nowadays, the cost of living is quickly rising, and salaries just aren’t keeping pace. Back in 1975, 47% of households only had 1 adult working; in 2015, that number sharply decreased to 27%. As a result, the statistic for 2 working adults in a household rose from 49% to 68%. A key factor is the high cost of housing and many couples find that they both need to work to pay the rent or the mortgage. This is particularly true in London and the South-East. Rises in property prices and rents have no doubt been fuelled by the fact that in many cases more than one person is paying the mortgage or rent.
One major factor in the rise in women returning to work after raising children is better access to higher education. For women born in the early 1960s, only 13% of women had a degree or higher qualification by age 33. For women born in the 1980s, that rises to over 45%.
In general, women with degrees tend to have higher employment rates. However, studies show that even for women without degrees, the number in employment has risen from 66% to 73% between 1992 and 2017.
Subsidies for Childcare
Previously, it was difficult to return to work after becoming a mother because there were no resources to help them with childcare, both financially and physically. But today, there are childcare subsidies, statutory maternity pay, and shared parental leave.
All of the above combined can be a huge relief to new parents, especially mothers. Not only can they stay at home longer with their newborns and toddlers, but they also don’t have to worry as much about huge chunks of their paycheques going toward childcare.
That’s the idea, at least.
However, the expense of childcare is still too high and is eroding the earnings of working mothers, even with subsidies. In 2018, the cost of childcare rose to £122 a week, which puts a huge financial burden on both parents. Obviously, something needs to change if women are to return to the workforce comfortably after motherhood.
Companies Are Being More Innovative
In the UK, organisations are starting to become more innovative. Many have made it easier for mothers to return to work or to retrain and change their career direction to more manageable work.
Although these ‘women returner’ programmes have been around in the US for over a decade, it’s catching on here in the UK. The first programme started in 2014 and involved tech companies such as O2, Amazon Web Services, and Capgemini. Also, the investment bank UBS has a “back to work” programme specifically aimed at working mothers.
Companies Are Becoming Much More Flexible
Traditionally, employees would turn up to work at 9:00 am, work the entire day at their desks, then return home at 5:00 pm.
But due to shifts in technology and people’s views on work, this is all rapidly changing. Between 2012 and 2016, flexi-time rose by 12.35%. It’s expected that half of the UK workforce will be working remotely by 2020. By law in the UK, employers have to consider offering flexible working arrangements to someone who has been in the job for a minimum of 26 weeks
Modern technology now allows employees to work very effectively from home. In fact, 1 out of 6 parents say they can vary their working hours to look after their children. This makes it easier for working mothers to balance taking care of their children with pursuing meaningful careers.
It’s more possible than ever before
Returning to work after having children is more possible than ever before. Apply for all the subsidies you can, and ask for flexi-time from your work if possible. If you don’t have children yet, have a read about pregnancy discrimination in the workplace and how to avoid it.
If you’d like guidance on part-time and flexible career opportunities that are open to you and how to return to work after raising children, get in touch with us for a free 30-minute no-obligation consultation.