26% say their employer has no post-maternity return-to-work policy

Around a quarter (26%) of respondents work for employers with no return-to-work policy for mothers returning to work after having a child, according to research by Mumsnet.

Its research, which surveyed more than 1,000 users of the parenting website, found that 22% said their employer did not have a phased return-to-work policy.

Nearly eight out of ten respondents agreed that there needs to be a cultural change or shift to reduce discrimination around maternity leave, while more than half (56%) said more legislation is needed.

The research also found that three-quarters (75%) of respondents found it harder to progress in their career after having a child, while 60% felt less employable since returning from maternity leave.

Almost one in five (17%) said their line manager or employer was not supportive. Among this group, 47% said they were made to feel guilty, 26% said their job was under threat and 37% felt ignored when it came to career progression.

Respondents were also asked what their employers could do to be more family friendly. The most popular workplace policy, cited by 28%, was flexible working, followed by emergency childcare provision (15%), job shares (9%) and back-to-work programmes (8%).

Justine Roberts, chief executive officer of Mumsnet, said: “While we have legislation designed to protect women against discrimination in the workplace, it’s clear that in many cases employers are simply not following the rules.

“Our survey reveals how important the culture created at work is. Supporting women on their return to work improves retention rates and ultimately adds value to an organisation.

“But with more than half of mums saying they felt less employable and three-quarters saying it was harder to progress in their career since having children, it’s clear there’s still lots of work to be done to ensure family-friendly practices are commonplace.”

Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, added: “It is sadly still far too common for women to feel shoved aside at work because they’ve decided to have children. Aside from the obvious unfairness, it’s also bad for our economy, which means everybody ends up losing out.

“Fortunately, there are many employers out there who do understand the need to retain the best staff and who want to help families better balance work and home.

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“Modern families come in every thinkable shape and size. In many cases mothers want to work and fathers want to spend more time at home. We need to dramatically update our working practices to accommodate these realities, helping families juggle their lives as they see fit.

“That is why, from April 2015, the Coalition government is introducing shared parental leave to ensure career options remain open to women after pregnancy.”