Mothers quit work to care for children – charity – BBC News

  • Author: Mark Ashdon and Lucy Hooker
  • BBC news

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Lauren McKenzie would like to advance in her career, but she says that working and taking care of children is hard work

Research by an equal pay charity shows that around a quarter of a million mothers with young children have left their jobs due to childcare pressures.

This research showed that a large number of women lose job opportunities for this reason.

According to the Fawcett Society, mothers are working more than ever before.

But they faced a “motherhood penalty” because their careers were not progressing.

Jemima Olchowski, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said a lack of flexible working arrangements and affordable childcare combined with “outdated and toxic attitudes about motherhood” were holding women back.

“When women have children, it’s harder for them to advance or they’re forced into part-time or low-paying jobs below their skill level,” she says.

Fewer than a third of working mothers with children under the age of four have flexible working arrangements, the Fawcett Association said.

Its survey of 3,000 working parents of pre-school children, carried out in partnership with recruitment firm Totaljobs, found that one in 10 mothers had handed in their notice, while twice as many had done so. They had thought about it.

The results suggest that even mothers who decided to persevere felt left behind by the twin demands of children and the workplace.

It found that 41 per cent of mothers surveyed had turned down a promotion or career advancement opportunity because they were concerned it would not be compatible with childcare arrangements. A high proportion of working fathers – 37% – said they had done the same.

Lauren McKenzie, who lives in south London with her husband and two children, aged six and eight months, says: “I want my career to progress. Now a full-time manager, he’s not sure if he’ll push for a promotion at work.

She is currently working at her child’s daycare and daycare part-time, but cannot pay her 1,800 for full-time daycare. He also says that he can’t be sure that if something goes wrong, he won’t have to rush to pick her up during the day.

“I don’t feel like I’m fully committed to work sometimes because I have to make sure my child is taken care of as well,” she told the BBC.

The Fawcett Society said the failure to recruit and promote mothers was affecting the UK economy because it prevented the workforce from being more productive or effective and made it more difficult to close the gender pay gap.

Businesses can “retain talent and combat persistent skills shortages” by doing more to support women with young children, rather than sending them down the “mummy route”, Ms Olchowski said.

“Right now, the UK simply cannot afford to let this talent go to waste,” he said.

The Fawcett Association said employers mistakenly assumed that pregnant women and mothers were less interested in career advancement. Three-quarters were equally ambitious, while almost half said they were more ambitious.

But two-thirds said they feel their abilities and contributions are sometimes undervalued or overlooked at work.

The Fawcett Society said it was calling on government and businesses to provide more support for childcare, including more flexible working arrangements and creating “genuinely family-friendly cultures”.

A government spokesman described it as “the biggest investment in childcare in UK history”. Once fully operational, it will provide 30 hours of free childcare per week for children from nine months to school age, costing 8 billion a year.

The spokesman added: “Our Flexible Working Bill requires employers to investigate every request and give a reason before refusing, and we are calling for increased understanding of the role of informal flexible working in supporting employees, including parents. We have set up to get evidence.”

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