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More than 80% of working mothers in the UK struggle when returning from maternity leave due to lack of support, study finds

New moms want more flexibility, access to childcare, and support from managers.
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Francis Scialabba

3 min read

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Some say being a mother is already one of the hardest (and often most thankless) jobs in the world. A new report sheds light on some of the challenges faced by moms in the UK upon returning to work after maternity leave.

Where in the world? More than 80% of working mothers in the UK experienced trouble returning to work after maternity leave, according to a new report from recruitment platform Totaljobs with the Fawcett Society, a UK-based gender equality charity. The groups surveyed 3,000 UK-based working parents and 500 HR leaders, as well as 1,254 working adults.

Despite more mothers in the UK working in 2021 (76%) than 20 years ago (61%), they’re earning less than women without children, and 30% reported that they didn’t receive any employer support when they returned to work from maternity leave. What’s more, 16% said they’ve faced discrimination for being a working mother, causing some (23%) to avoid talking about their parenting responsibilities.

The mothers also said they struggle to balance work and family commitments (39%), high childcare costs (35%), and increased workloads (17%) when they returned to work. As a result, nearly one in five (19%) said they’ve considered leaving their jobs.

“There are more mothers in the workplace than ever before, and businesses need to create an environment where they can flourish. With critical labor shortages, the pressures of childcare could ultimately have a longer-term impact on our ever-shrinking workforce. Not only do working parents need more support, but we need to ensure this support extends to the people who need it the most,” Jane Lorigan, chief executive at Totaljobs, said in a blog post.

While 85% of the HR practitioners surveyed said their company currently offers parents support like flexible work arrangements (35%) and mental health support (27%), working mothers may need more. While 76% had the same career ambitions as they did before becoming a parent, 79% said they face barriers to career advancements. They want more flexibility, more frequent check-ins with their managers, and access to learning and development to help with their return to work.

“We call on businesses and government to prioritize ending the motherhood penalty by properly supporting women to balance their work and caring responsibilities. Right now, the UK simply cannot afford to let these talents go to waste,” Jemima Olchawski, CEO of the Fawcett Society, said.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.