Mothers are still finding it hard to find flexible working even though more employers are embracing it.
In a global survey of 11,0000 corporates by workplace solutions provider Regus, 44 per cent plan to recruit more mothers returning to part-time work over the next two years.
That’s great for mothers who were in full-time jobs for at least six months before going on maternity leave. Not only does the law state that employers must consider a request for flexible working, but they’re also more likely to hear about opportunities on internal jobs boards.
The rest of us are excluded because few companies advertise part-time or flexible positions externally.
The other barrier is recruitment consultants who act as nine-to-five gatekeepers, refusing to put you forward as a potential candidate because they assume the client won’t consider a flexible worker.
Louise Smith is a former editor-in-chief who took several years off to raise her children and now wants to re-enter the workplace. Even though she has skills that are easily transferred to home or flexible working, she’s found it impossible to find work – and the first stumbling block was recruitment companies.
“One consultant said unless I could be full-time he couldn’t think of anyone who would be interested. He said people in the media should easily be able to work part-time and job share but it’s never materialised. In competitive jobs there’s enough people without commitments who could do it and they put them forward first.”
Last year I asked a consultant to suggest me for a job I was well qualified for, with a request that the firm considered me on a four-day-week basis. She refused to try. But when I mentioned it to a friend who works there, he was appalled and said the company believed in flexible working and would have considered me.
Louise and I aren’t unusual. The website workingmums.co.uk has more than 68,000 women on its database seeking to work flexibly.
The website’s founder Gillian Nissim said: “The number has increased at a fast rate in the last few months as women who were working flexibly have been made redundant and are seeking similar flexibility in a new post to be able to balance work and family life in a manageable way.”
Recruitment consultants with ‘flexi-savvy’ can seen the benefits of flexible working. Xchangeteam, for example, has 40.5% of its workforce on flexible contracts and supports both part-time and remote working, allowing its staff to balance their lives more effectively.
“This is reflected in a higher performance standard and significantly more committed staff,” said Deenita Pattni, team leader – editorial.
Xchangeteam also works closely with clients to demonstrate the value of flexible work practices and regularly places both freelance and permanent candidates where the opportunity exists to work part-time or remotely.
But even a progressive agency like Xchangeteam is stymied sometimes.
“Hiring line managers may not always have the authority to approve this option and for that reason refuse to consider it – taking it beyond our control as a recruiter,” added Deenita.
So employers take note. If you want to make the most of the benefits flexible workers can offer, make sure that others in the organisation aren’t letting the side down by sticking to outdated 9-5 conventions.
Has it happened to you? Let me know what you did about it and whether it worked.