The 8 Year Glitch – When A Career and Famiy Life Collide
Why do Mums drop out of the workforce ? … “I just couldn’t make it work” the amazing thing about what we do is that we have the opportunity to speak to 1000’s of parents. This phrase is usually the pre-cursor to them telling us they quit their job because of the pressures of juggling a demanding or inflexible career and family life. Or that the amount of earnings would just about cover child care costs which made it impossible to continue work.
The 8 Year Glitch Explored
It’s around 8 to 10 years into a woman’s career when starting a family coincides with the dilemma of whether to remain on career path or not. Many Women or and a handful of men who this affects are probably on track for senior positions at this stage if they aren’t in those roles already.
Many feel as if they are forced out of their careers. Equally worryingly, according to a new study, millions of highly skilled British working mums are currently being forced to accept jobs which are substantially below their training and qualifications. They will also earn far less than men over the course of their working lives, most often due to the inflexibility of employer over matters involving families.
More than half of the mums surveyed confirmed that they were currently working. However, 54% had left a job or changed jobs because of family commitments, with the result being that often their previous educational achievements are wasted.
It’s no wonder that even 8 to 10 years after having their babies, women are still struggling in the workplace. The sheer juggling act of school runs, clubs, days off for a sick child plus trying to get that all-important work project done exactly on time and on budget can become so overwhelming that many women have no option but to leave.
Many other countries have been offering significant financial help to new and expectant parents for some time, but companies in the UK are now really starting to catch on.
So Why Else Might Women Suffer The 8 Year Glitch?
The attitude of an employer towards the mothers that work for them plays a massive part. Employers with a less forward-thinking approach often act inflexibly when family situations arise or overlook those who have flexible arrangements for career progression. 49% of working mums from this same survey say that flexible working has heled them back in their career.
Lack Of Affordable Childcare
The huge cost of childcare, especially in certain parts of the country like London, can mean it’s not actually financially viable to for a women to stay at work any longer. Some companies have tried to help with this by offering childcare schemes and vouchers towards the cost, but many are simply unable to.
Caring For Other Family Members
As your child gets older, unfortunately so too do your own parents and other family members. Many women are sandwiched between looking after young children in addition to aging relatives, and to add in a demanding career on top is just too much.
Burnt out. Totally knackered. Whatever you want to call it, many women are just pure exhausted. By eight years post-childbirth some mums decide to either take a much less brain-draining job, switch to a different career or duck out altogether. And who can blame them? It’s exhausting!
A recent study has shown that working mums are 18% more stressed than others and this figure rises to 40% two children.
What Are Women Doing After They’ve Left The Workforce?
The million dollar question. Many simply take time out to honour family commitments and take a breather. Others start their own small business or take up new hobbies which can then lead to making a little extra money on the side.
Why Is This Hurting Businesses?
Widening The Pay Gap
Firstly, it can give rise to an increase in the gender pay gap as well as creating a skills shortage. This skills shortage could be within a team which is too small to absorb the loss, or it could be more general across a geographical area of the country where particular skills are in short supply.
Diversity and Inclusion
Businesses can also suffer a lack of diversity. After all, a functioning workforce depends on a variety of people being part of it. Men, women, those with kids, those without – anyone and everyone! We all bring something to the table, and by damaging this diversity the business is likely to suffer, certainly in the longer term. This in turn can give rise to negative morale issues and a low retention rate.
Finally, there’s the hiring and replacement costs to consider. People who leave an organisation need to be replaced, which can be a real HR nightmare. Hiring, training and getting a new employee up to speed all cost time and money that many companies can ill-afford. It can cost up to 400 percent of a talented employee’s annual salary to replace them.
What Can Businesses Do To Prevent It ?
The good news is there are many things an organisation can do to try and offset the risk of the ominous 8 year glitch.
Competitive Maternity Package
The most obvious thing is a good maternity package to start with. If women feel supported – financially and otherwise – to take the time off they want and need, it really garners favour with their company; it makes them more likely to stay. Read our advice around the benefits of offering paid maternity leave.
Stay In Touch
Particularly helpful factors include the ability to keep in touch whilst on maternity leave, for example through a maternity coordinator, this could be a member of that employee’s team or HR. Essentially someone who is allocated to keep the employee abreast of changes in the business and general updates in the business to help with a much smoother and positive transition back into work. It can take 6-9 + months for a new mum to transition back into work so you may want to think about a co-ordinator over a longer period of time to help ease the employee through such a big transition.
Asses what the return process looks like beyond the first week back. There are several factors that make for a smooth return. Set some short term and long term goals with the employee that fit in line with what they would like to achieve during this process. Understand what are the factors that will enable them to do their job effectively, this could be as simple as remote access to systems. Some quick wins are:
- Set up a plan for the first 100 days detailing the ramp up period to help the employee get back up to speed. Make sure the plan is agreed and all the key stakeholders are in agreement.
- Have all non-irrelavant emails cleared from the employees inbox if possible this will help the employee focus on important communication and reducethe amount of time dealing with tech issues on the first day back.
- Be understanding that this may be a difficult time for the employee and therefore a little understanding will go a long way in helping the employess setlle back into work
The F Word
Flexibility, have a good idea of what flexibility works for the business and what could be offered that would enhance operations. Research flexible initiatives that work for other companies within your sector and learn from success stories. Listen to the employee should they make a flexible working request and consider their request fairly balanced out with the costs, benefits and business requirements.
Also, when the time comes for a new mum to return to the workplace, an understanding, flexible approach with an ‘easing back’ period goes a very long way indeed.
By taking just a few simple steps, businesses can make a huge difference to the likelihood of retaining their working mums over time. It’s something a growing number of businesses are fortunately starting to recognise and those that don’t will soon be left behind.