Isn’t it interesting that the CBI is worried about the collapse of the small business because of the rights accorded to working parents? There would be more to worry about if we do not support working parents!
In 78% of married couples, both partners work outside the home (that figure is higher for same-sex couples); 72% of married women work outside the home and one in six has children under the age of 16. Most working women are permanent employees and the majority work full-time.
Between 1999 and 2010, the creation of two million additional jobs is predicted, two-thirds of which are expected to be filled by women.
The most recent Labour Force Survey shows a greater gender divide in employee growth, with women employees increasing by 1.% and male employees by only 0.7%.
It is still the case that 85% of the caring responsibilities in the home still fall to the woman.
Here is a true story. A woman worked as branch supervisor in the local branch of a well-known financial establishment for 15 years after leaving college. Four years ago, she had a baby and, when the child was six months old, she decided to go back to work part-time.
However, she was not allowed return to her former role as branch supervisor, only as a clerk (because managers could not be part-time). She juggled caring for her baby with the rigid hours of the business and rigid hours of the nursery, which sometimes made her late for work (the nursery opened at 8.20am and closed promptly at 5.30pm).
Under pressure from her manager she moved to full-time work by the time her daughter was two years old. Her manager started warning her about lateness and suggested that she was not committed to the team. Her life became more stressed and guilt-ridden – both for arriving late to work and for making her baby’s life hurried. Yet she could not afford to give up work.
The end of her day included the important job of totting up the takings and tills. This job was “not allowed to be done” until 5pm. One of the tills was £10 out. The boss insisted she checked and re-checked, although she told him she had to pick up her daughter from nursery.
When she arrived at the nursery, the lights were all out and no-one was there. Her three-year-old was huddled in the porch in her coat and hat with a note pinned to the front. “We had to leave, make sure you get here on time in future.”
The woman never returned to work or the nursery. It cost her employer around £15,000 to replace her, plus the loss of her 15 years’ worth of knowledge.
In the UK last year, 68% of new businesses that were set up by women were started because they could no longer stand the inflexibility of working for ‘old hat’ management styles. Many were working mothers.
It is said that when we have a good experience we tell, on average, about four people, whereas when we have a bad experience we tell 17. That 17 will tell 17 others and so on. The biggest threat to business success is not supporting working parents, but failing to support them.
Lynne Copp, FCIPD
Managing director, The Worklife Company