Bring Us Back to Work

  • Lianne Baker - Group HR Manager, O'Neill & Brennan
  • in
  • Back to Work, Working Women
  • |
  • 20 Apr 2018


Since my recent frustrating search for a part-time job, I spent a lot of time thinking about how crazy it is that our pre-maternity leave employers don't want to take us back. My employer during my first maternity leave refused my flexible working request with very little consideration and the same thing happened to almost everyone I know.

We all wanted to go back to work but we were basically told it was all or nothing.

These ‘all or nothing’ employers are willing to lose all that knowledge that we have gained over the years we have worked for them.  Instead, they are willing to spend thousands on recruitment costs (up to 30% of our salary) to replace us. They are also happy to train someone else up to do our job that could take months or years. What a waste of time and resources when we are only asking for a bit of flexibility so we can enjoy being Mum too. After all, we are bringing up the next generation of workers!

Having worked in Human Resources for the best part of 10 years, I have been part of these ‘return to work’ meetings and unfortunately, I know why these line managers don't want us back.

Obviously, it’s because being a mum means that we must bad at timekeeping. It's simply not possible to drop children at school or nursery AND get a coffee AND get into the office before 10 and then by the time we get to the office we will have to leave again.

When we are ‘working from home’ that must mean we are doing the laundry, cleaning the house and have children climbing all over us whilst we send a couple of emails and then go to soft play. There won't be much working because who is monitoring us?

Our children are probably always going to be sick. The more children we have, the more days off we will need at short notice and then we will get sick too so will need even more time off. We will basically not be in the office and if we are we will be riddled with germs.

We most likely won't be able to focus on work because we have too many other things going on. We will struggle to pay attention in meetings and struggle to achieve all of our objectives without help. Everyone else in the team will have to work twice as hard.

Oh and let’s not forget that mums must need weeks and weeks off work for childcare during all the school holidays. Don't expect to see us when it's not term time. We will be by the pool with an inflatable flamingo.

For some of the same reasons, prospective employers don't want flexible workers either. All jobs must be full time and there is no way the job could be done in less time. And obviously, you are only working if you are physically sitting in an office all day every day. If they can't see you at your desk, you cannot possibly be a useful member of the team.

Right then, now that's cleared up us mums might as well admit defeat and not bother going back to work.

OR…... Here's the thing employers,

Us mums are amazing at timekeeping. You could not comprehend how much we get done before 7 am.

We pay huge costs for childcare so we make sure we as knocking on the door of the nursery as so soon as it opens. We are excited to get to work because it's the first time in the day when we have had two free hands and we want to switch on our brains for good use. We have a finite period of time in the office before we have to leave at 4:30 pm on the dot, so rather than stand around the coffee machine chatting, we go straight to our desk and start work.

We don't take lunch breaks, we eat our lunch whilst responding to emails. We don't have unnecessary meetings, we can see which ones actually need to happen and we prioritise them. We write to-the-point emails and are more upfront about what we need and what we can do. We work more efficiently and manage our time expertly because we have to. And then we pick up our kids. We make their dinner and ours, we bathe them and put them to bed. We pack our bags for tomorrow, we lay out our clothes for tomorrow, we check our work emails again and then we go to bed. We get more done in our day than most people get done in a week.

When we work from home, we work really hard.

Our childcare is arranged so working from home just gives us the chance to avoid the commute to and from work. We start work earlier and work later and also have peace and quiet - free from office noise and distraction to get our job done better. And we DO get it done.

We also have the chance to pick up our children on time and feeling calm having not dealt with commuter chaos.

Yes, children get sick, but so does everyone else including that person in your team who doesn't come in because they stayed up too late with friends or the one that decides not to come in once a month because they just can't be bothered. Hopefully, we will always have backup childcare, but if we don't, we will still be contactable when we are off. We will also be incredibly grateful to an understanding employer and will work hard to make up the time. We often don't get paid for time off with a sick child so we really only take it off when completely necessary. We are also far less likely to take sick leave ourselves because we don't have time to get ill.

Yes, we are really focused. When we are in the office you have our undivided attention. At home, our focus is split in hundreds of different directions, so it's a pleasure to be busy focusing on work that uses our brain. We don't have time to daydream, we just get the job done. It's only when we leave the office door to go home that our brains flood with everything else we need to think about.

It may seem like we are never in the office, but we actually take the same amount of annual leave as everyone else, and the full entitlement that we are given. We just have to take the leave during specific weeks and then for the other weeks, we have to pay for expensive childcare or rely on relatives. We also have to pay for holidays that are double the price of everyone else's.

In terms of physically sitting in an office, yes we can come into the office but we tend to work harder if we have some flexibility to work remotely sometimes. If we are able to work from home even one day a week, it saves us being late due to trains or traffic. It also saves some of your resources. Giving us the technology to respond to emails and access our files away from the office also allows us to stay in touch when we aren’t in the office so we can do a better job all week long.

Us mums can be incredibly hardworking. We are fast and efficient because we have to be. We are also loyal. If you give us the flexibility that we need and trust us to do our job, we will do it and we will stay your loyal employees. We don't have time to search on LinkedIn for new jobs during our lunch breaks like other people do.

We want to work for you because you are letting us have it all, and we want to do the job we already love and are good at.

It's worth giving us the chance. Bring us back to work.  

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