MOTHERS FOR HIRE

In the midst of Brexit turmoil …

Companies in the UK are currently facing a considerable decline in candidate availability. The latest KPMG and REC UK Report on Jobs shows that the decline in availability of both permanent and temporary staff is linked to a reluctance among candidates to move roles amid Brexit-related uncertainty as well as a generally low unemployment rate across the UK. In the upcoming months, it will be imperative for businesses to consider new recruitment strategies and ultimately compensate for the large loss of EU workers.

An untapped workforce 

YouGov research shows that 86% of the UK’s 2 million-plus unemployed parents are motivated to return to work, but this segment of job seekers remains vastly untapped. Businesses’ hesitation to hire applicants returning to work after parental leave particularly affects mothers. Their profile remains overlooked, mainly because of some old-fashioned misgivings: relative to other kinds of applicants, mothers are seen as less competent and less committed to work. Traditionally minded employers fear that a mother’s personal life will distract her from her work or that she might leave shortly again to have another child. This motherhood penalty is a persisting and systemic problem that sees women who take time out to have children hugely disadvantaged when they attempt to return to work (Research shows that fathers do not suffer this penalty*).

Hard times call for inventive solutions

As a result, mothers who want to return to work or need an additional income stream are bound to seek alternatives to traditional employment. More and more mothers start small-scale ventures, set up as freelancers or take on collaborative projects. These solutions often enable mothers to create a work-life that fits comfortably around their family life. While these alternatives are attractive to some mothers, others prefer the security and stability of employment, or simply desire to pursue the career they started prior to having children.

Positive changes in the labour market

There is still a long way in reducing discrimination and creating gender parity – both in the home and the workplace -, but attitudes toward hiring mothers are changing. Companies that recognise the high potential of this workforce segment are taking steps toward more inclusive recruitment strategies. Travelodge, one of Britain’s biggest hotel chains, has recently reshaped their HR model to integrate more flexibility in their work environment. In order to appeal to these highly efficient, multiple hats-wearers (aka mums), businesses will need to include in their job offerings unconventional parameters such as working hours that can fit around the school run and perks that suit families. These changes are slow but will eventually *hopefully* spread far and wide, hence benefiting companies and mothers alike.

* Getting a Job: Is There a Motherhood Penalty? Shelley J. Correll, Stephen Benard, and In Paik, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 112, No. 5 (March 2007)
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