Women are giving up jobs in droves because they cannot balance work, pay, and childcare costs. Among single mums, 13 per cent have left, versus one in ten among all women. The figures stem from a report by the Fawcett Society, according to which the motherhood penalty has driven a quarter of a million women out of work. Women leaving jobs is hardly a new phenomenon. However, these figures highlight once again not only the pay gap but also inequality when it comes to child-rearing.
In partnership with Totaljobs, the Fawcett Society, a women’s rights campaign group, surveyed 3,000 parents in employment and found that 20 per cent of mothers had considered giving up work and one in ten following through. Difficulties in balancing full-time employment and childcare have led to almost a quarter of a million women leaving work. The equality campaign group has called for an end to the “motherhood penalty”. The organisation’s chief executive, Jemima Olchawski, blames “outdated and toxic attitudes around motherhood” for forcing women out of the workplace.
The report highlights how many women pass up on promotion opportunities because they fear career progression would not fit with childcare responsibilities, leaving them destined to remain on the “mummy track” indefinitely. The survey reveals that 41 per cent of women had turned down promotions.
Olchawski has called on the government and businesses to make “ending the motherhood penalty by properly supporting women to balance their work and caring responsibilities a top priority. “The UK simply cannot afford to let these talents go to waste”, she added.
The Fawcett Society sees women leaving jobs as an issue for the broader UK economy. For one, it makes closing the gender pay gap harder, and secondly, it negatively impacts the effectiveness and productivity of the entire workforce. The Society believes employers assume pregnant staff members are no longer interested in progressing their careers, whereas in reality, most women remain ambitious, and some become even more driven. Two-thirds of the women surveyed said they felt overlooked and undervalued.
Fewer than three out of ten working mothers with children under five can rely on flexible arrangements to juggle work and motherhood, the report adds.
Totaljobs chief executive Jane Lorigan warned that childcare pressures will likely worsen the current labour shortages, potentially leaving a shrinking workforce dwindling further.
“There are more mothers in the workplace than ever before, and businesses need to create an environment where they can flourish.
“Not only do working parents need more support, but we need to ensure this support extends to the people who need it the most.”
The Fawcett Society is urging businesses and the government to bolster the support to working mothers and provide “genuinely family-friendly cultures”.
For its part, the government introduced a childcare funding boost in its Spring Budget, promising to expand free childcare schemes in England over the next two years, with a government spokesperson describing the move as “the single biggest investment in childcare in England’s history”. After the full implementation of the scheme, each child between nine months and school-going age will be entitled to 30 hours of free childcare per week. When announcing the additional funding, a government spokesperson said.
“Our Flexible Working Bill requires employers to consider any requests and provide a reason before rejection, and we have launched a call for evidence to increase understanding of the role of informal flexible working in supporting employees, including parents.”