How to support mothers in the workplace

With an increase of working mums in the UK, employers need to be asking themselves ‘how can we support mothers in the workplace?’ 

Working mothers are now at the highest level they have been for 20 years, with 3 in 4 now in employment. Despite this, companies are not doing enough to attract and retain this valuable workforce. 

At the end of December, figures suggested that more than 1.1 million jobs in the UK were vacant, so how can you tap into the market of working mothers and what can you do to support them? 

“Supporting parents in the workplace is a no brainer for me. Some of the most resourceful and resilient people I know are holding down a family, whilst holding down a job. I’m a mum and at times in my life I’ve been a single mum, so I understand the difference it makes when a business is flexible in terms of working hours, location and making small allowances to allow a parent to do a good job and provide for their family. Something that is important to me as a parent and a business owner, is never wanting my team to miss out on things like school plays, parents evening, sports days, celebrations or being there when their child is unwell. Our business is richer and more creative because of the people in it and that includes those members of the team who are parents.”

Laura O’Driscoll, Owner and Managing Director 

Here’s a few examples of how you can support mothers in the workplace: 

Healthy work-life balance 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have noticed the shift in priorities following the global pandemic. Workers, particularly parents, have realised the importance of a healthy work-life balance and how remote and hybrid working makes their lives easier and less stressful.  

A work morning with children can bring absolute chaos. Those with younger children will likely feel exhausted by the time they make it to work, not forgetting what the rest of the day will bring. Hybrid working practices won’t stop the constant reminders to brush their teeth, or countdowns to when you need to leave, but it does stop the additional pressure of ensuring you have a packed lunch, getting stuck in traffic, navigating road closures or public transport and trying to make it into the office without looking like you won’t survive the day without a vat of coffee.  

In the annual workingmums survey, 73.61% of participants said that flexible working was a ‘deal breaker’ for them when applying for a new role.  

Flexibility isn’t just important in terms of navigating everyday life with children, it’s also beneficial to support with extortionate childcare fees. An expected rise in childcare fees in April will take the average full-time nursery bill to over £15,000 a year.  

“Working makes you feel like you have a purpose other than being a ‘mum’, which is nice. I try not to think about what we pay monthly for childcare because it’s scary, especially on those days your child is unwell at home and you’re still paying! My son is in childcare part-time, never more than 3 days a week and at times my monthly bills have been close to £900 a month. The work/home life balance is great at The Outsourced Recruitment Company. I’m able to do school drop off and pick up, which is something I find important being a mum. I know that if my children needed a day off school I could go to Laura and she would be understanding.”

Fran James, Recruiter 

Offer a range of benefits 

In order to attract working mums and retain current employees, you should consider the range of benefits you offer.  

First, assess what you currently offer and whether those benefits are used and appreciated by your workforce. This can be as simple as sending a questionnaire or holding a focus group with a diverse range of employees. If you have an electronic benefit offering this may provide you with statistics which could aid your decision-making.  

If you don’t already, you should be considering some sort of flexible working arrangement, not just to benefit working parents, but all employees.  

Having a range of benefits on offer is fantastic, but that’s only good if you’ve made them visible! Don’t forget to include them on all job adverts, your careers page, social media channels and ask willing staff to share quotes on how those benefits support them.  

Show you are child-friendly 

We can’t imagine any companies out there have ‘no children’ signs, but not acknowledging the importance of family can put off job seekers. When a job seeker considers new employment, they will research the company and something that working mothers will actively look for is your ‘stance’ on family commitments.  

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just tell people that you’re a family friendly employer – you need to show them. Social media is a fantastic tool for giving people real insight into what it’s like to work for you. This is a great platform to share examples, such as case studies from parents and photographs (with permission) when employees bring one of their children in.  

Support new mums 

Did you know that fewer than 1 in 5 women feel confident returning from maternity leave. 

Having children is a huge transition in a person’s life and can affect it in so many ways. Supporting new mums back to the workplace is not only beneficial for your employees, but also acts as a huge draw for those who are job seeking. 

Aside from the things mentioned in this blog already about being supportive and flexible, consider updating your policies to support breastfeeding mothers back to work or offering phased returns.  

Be understanding 

If you’re a parent yourself then you know not all days are easy, in fact some are really hard.  

If your employee turns up and heads straight to the coffee machine after sharing that they’ve been up all night with a teething baby, don’t make them feel guilty for being tired. Tell them to take some time to themselves to enjoy their coffee before rushing into work. 

As an employer, your staff should be invited to regular catch ups and one-to-ones, use these as an opportunity not just to talk about work, but find out what homelife is like for them.  

“Some days are easier than others. There have been times where things haven’t gone to plan, I’ve been late or turned up in tears. I can safely say that I’ve always felt supported by Laura and the rest of the team. Knowing that you can share your problems and be your ‘whole self’ at work is such a relief. Having to hold in emotions isn’t healthy; it makes such a difference having people there to listen and talk through how you’re feeling. On the other end of the scale, I feel like my son has an extended family of aunties and uncles. The team go out of their way to ask about him and celebrate milestones and successes with you.”

Kim Draper, Employer Brand Consultant 

We hope this blog has been helpful and demonstrated how you can support working mums in your workplace.

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