Release findings from Workingmums.co.uk's 2015 Annual Survey highlights that over a fifth of working mums have been forced to leave their jobs because a flexible working request was turned down.
The survey of over 2,300 mums also found that 38% of those still on maternity leave would not return to their jobs if flexible working wasn't granted and 47% are unsure what they would do. However, despite its importance, 46% of those on maternity leave had not yet discussed it with their manager.
The survey underlines the importance of flexible working for working mums with 58% choosing it as the most important factor for their career progression, up from 52% in 2014. The right to request flexible working was extended to all employees last year. This new policy has a less rigid timetable for employers and also no statutory right to appeal if a request is turned down.
Of those who had flexible working turned down, over half said they felt the reasons given were unjustified. Some 13% who appealed were successful, but 77% didn't appeal.
The survey shows a big divide between working mums with regard to flexible working. Most have some degree of flexibility in their job, but 22% say their job is not flexible and 10% say their job is not at all flexible. However, 12% say their job is extremely flexible.
The survey reveals that many employers are failing to retain the skills of working mums after maternity leave. Some 62% of mums returned from maternity leave to a new job, up from 59% in 2014. Some 65% are interested in retraining and almost a third have retrained in the last year. Moreover, 63% have considered setting up their own business - 64% are just thinking about it, but 20% are in the early stages of setting up. The number of mums starting businesses has shot up in recent years as technology makes it easier to do so from home.
Other findings from the survey include:
- 55% of women earn less pro rata than before they had children, but 17% earn more than their partner. Nevertheless, 56% say they would accept less pay for flexibility.
- There is a big demand for homeworking - it is the most valued form of flexible working and the most likely to encourage women to work full time.
- Job shares are still not favoured by employers with only 6% saying they are doing this type of flexible working.
- 3.5% of working mums' partners work part time and 52% don't work flexibly
- 49% of mums think employers discriminate against working mums with only 12% saying they don't.
Gillian Nissim, founder of Workingmums.co.uk, said: "The survey results show how important flexible working in all its forms is to working mums. There are some jobs in which it is easier to offer certain forms of flexibility, but our work in highlighting best practice shows that there is room for a lot of creative thinking on how to make work culture more family-friendly. Some have argued that it is too expensive for businesses to move to more agile working patterns, but the survey demonstrates the costs of not doing so in terms of the loss of skilled staff."