You have a female manager who is a star performer. Year after year, she brings in revenue, exceeds expectations and is seen as a great leader by her team. She announces to you, her boss, that she’s finally expecting her first baby.
How are you likely to respond?
- Congratulations but you know that new project will be coming up by the time you’re ready to leave and what am I going to do now?
- Congratulations! How about we start thinking about what we can put in place during your absence and consider flexible working arrangements for you when you’re ready to come back to work?
Ideally, response number 2 is the best one but unfortunately response number 1 is most likely to happen. A mumsnet forum has plenty of reactions from bosses to pregnancy announcements ranging from swearing to silence.
At best, it can make your employee feel underwhelmed and at worst it can lead her to start questioning if she wants to come back after leave to work for you.
Sona Thacore from Milana Maternity Coaching said when a mother returns to work after maternity leave, she is more likely to resign from her role than at any other time in her career. “This tells us a lot about how working mothers are often made to perform in environments that are not conducive to their shifting needs, abilities or creating work/life harmony. Working mothers don’t feel valued or part of the team anymore, and are therefore likely to resign,” she said.
The Motherhood Penalty
Stories that appear in news articles show that women suffer a ‘motherhood penalty’ because of taking time off work to have children. Often, they come back to a role that’s changed drastically or no longer there which forces them out of the workforce. This issue can be corrected if businesses are open to flexible working arrangements.
Currently, workforce participation rates for women are 59.5 per cent in Australia while male workforce participation rates stand at 71 per cent. There’s often a perception that mothers are not valuable employees since they tend to be the primary caregiver when their children are sick.
Mothers can increase GDP
Bringing back mothers into the workforce to increase female workforce participation rates can add $25bn to the GDP. The Australian Human Resources Institute estimates that employee turnover costs organisations $20bn annually which can be reduced if companies hold on to their female employees.
Offering flexible working arrangements to both male and female employees can be a win-win for business.
A 2013 study by Ernst & Young in Australia found that women are experts when it came to working flexibly and wasted less time than their counterparts making them more productive and highly motivated employees.
How would flexible working conditions benefit your business?
- Staff turnover is reduced which means your business spends less time recruiting and training new employees to replace those female employees who resigned
- Employees feel valued and likely to work harder and be more loyal to the company
- Customer satisfaction is improved because employees are happy working for you and this affects how they interact with clients
- Increased work/life balance leading to healthier staff who take less sick days off or mums who can take time off without worrying the boss will be watching them
- Access to the best talent in the market who want flexible work
- Less cost for smaller businesses or startups in hiring office space if employees work remotely
- Less chance of employees chucking ‘sickies’ because they feel overworked and couldn't care less about the company
- High staff motivation
Nourish provides companies with tools, programs and resources to help support their female (and male) employees during pregnancy and after parental leave. Contact us to find out how we can help.