Mums’ talent lost in inflexible working conditions

By Cara Jenkin    

Mothers are finding it tough to break back into the workforce because employers are unwilling to take them on part time, a recruiter says.

Talent2 Adelaide’s contracting manager Michael Clark says many professional and executive women who want to return to the workforce after taking maternity leave are finding it hard to get a job because employers refuse to be flexible about childcare responsibilities.

He says employers sometimes hire less-qualified or less-capable staff just because they can work five days a week instead of four or three days, and this can hurt their business in the long term.

Yet many mothers can do the same amount of work in part-time hours as in full-time and often are willing to take work home after hours, Mr Clark says.

“Employers are really struggling to find people with the right skill set but people shy away because they’ve been out of the workforce for 12 months or seek flexibility to pick kids up from childcare,” he says.

“Adelaide is a fairly conservative city and, unlike other places, hasn’t embraced technology.

“You can really log on from anywhere and work remotely.

“Still employers expect people to rock up at nine and leave at five and work to that.”

Mr Clark says many Adelaide employers feel it is too hard to organise job-share arrangements for some roles, fearing information will be lost in transition. But he says such arrangements can work well and are common overseas.

“It can be frustrating, from my perspective, to see such high-quality people and know how good someone is and can’t get an opportunity,” he says.

“No one gives them the chance. (Employers will) get a dedicated loyal team if they give it a go.”

CPA qualified accountant Lisa Gergos, 35, was made redundant while on maternity leave with her first child four years ago. She found part-time contract work four days a week when she returned to the workforce. But she found employers were unwilling to hire part-time workers when she returned to the workforce after the birth of her second child, now 18 months old.

“The second time around it was a lot harder,” she says.

“As soon as I said `four days a week’, they were not interested.”

She looked for work for 2 1/2 months before securing another part-time contract as a State Government project officer. But she is unsure of her employment outlook after the contract expires later this year.

She urges employers to be more flexible and appreciate the skills mothers can bring to a job and the workplace and hire them if they have the best skills for the job.

“You don’t just have to organise yourself but your kids and sometimes your husband,” she says.

“You get to be the most organised, efficient person and a lot of these skills you transfer from the home to the workplace, for sure.”


* Mothers often develop superior time management and efficiency skills which can transfer to the workforce.

* Women with children often work harder to deadlines to ensure they can get home to the family on time.

* A five-day workload may be able to be finished in four days of hard work.

* Mothers often are willing to work from home if they can have flexible office hours.

Article from The Advertiser, May 2011.

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