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Empowering Working Mothers

Posted on 5th April 2023

Childcare costs are driving mothers away from the workplace, new figures reveal.

  •  A Save the Children poll found 54% of mothers of under-11s have had to cut down their work hours because of childcare costs–and 40% said they or their partners would be working more if childcare was more affordable.
  • A YouGov survey found 56% of parents with children of primary-school age or younger are affected by childcare costs, and 47% have had to turn down work because of childcare. A quarter of those on Universal Credit would work more if childcare was more affordable.
  •   And the Careers After Babies report produced the shocking revelation that 98% of new mothers want to return to work, but 85% quit full-time work within three years because of burnout and a lack of flexibility.

Save the Children has called on the Government to offer childcare grants or subsidies to enable parents to get back to work.

By September 2025, the Government will be offering free childcare to working parents with children under the age of 5. This move is to help 60,000 parents enter the workforce.  

The new help for parents will be introduced in stages.

  • Eligible working parents of two-year-olds will get 15 hours of free childcare per week from April 2024.
  • Children between nine months and two years old will get 15 hours of free childcare from September 2024.
  • All eligible under-5s will get 30 hours of free childcare from September 2025.

Right now, the loss of valuable staff over childcare is costing businesses millions.

What can employers do to turn the tide?

1. See working mothers as investments

41% of the UK workforce are women–and 82% of those will become mothers by age 45, according to the Office for National Statistics. All the money you’ve invested in developing those employees will walk out the door with them if you lose them. In today’s employment market, you can’t afford to let that happen.

2. Be honest about maternity rights

Too many businesses fail to make it clear to their employees what their legal rights to parental leave and return to work are.

3. Offer managers training

Line managers need training in how to handle pregnant employees with understanding, sensitivity, and awareness of the challenges they might face.  

4. Protect women's roles

It should go without saying that you don’t make women redundant while they’re on maternity leave–but sadly, it does need to be said. After more than six months of maternity leave, the government only requires you to bring them back into “similar” jobs–but 79% of women treated in this way leave within two years, according to the Careers after Babies report. Keep their jobs for them.

5. If you cut their hours, cut their workload

Isn’t it great that working mums are so productive? No, it isn’t. Granting someone reduced hours and then expecting them to do a full-time workload in those hours leads to burnout.

6. Offer everyone flexibility

Most mums prefer hybrid working. So, incidentally, do most non-mums. Avoid relegating the mothers in your workforce to second-class status by extending the privilege to everyone.

7. Base performance on outcomes, not hours

This is an important corollary to offering hybrid working: don’t expect people to prove how many hours they’ve worked. If they’re doing good work, that’s the proof that they’ve done enough.

8. Invest in mothers’ careers

Another reason mothers leave jobs is the management’s sudden loss of interest in their future careers. Women get 32% fewer management roles after having children–despite the fact that parenting is excellent training for management. Talk seriously with your working mothers about their professional development and encourage them to put themselves forward for promotion.

9. Touch base during and after maternity leave

When one of your employees goes on maternity leave, consider using Keeping in Touch days to stay connected with her during her absence, and make sure conversations are focused on a positive return to work (in her original job!) On the employee’s first day back, set up a meeting to find out how she’s feeling and what support she needs from you. Make sure she has somewhere to go to pump breast milk if she needs to, and reassure her that it’s okay to make some calls to check up on her baby.

10. Encourage paternity leave

This article shouldn’t have to be all about mothers–but only 2% of UK fathers are taking up the government’s offer of shared parental leave. According to the Careers after Babies report, the main reason for this is cultural–men feel paternity leave still isn’t normalised, and not enough dads in senior roles are taking it. Start conversations to change the culture in your organisation.


To hear about this important topic, you can watch our webinar on YouTube: