Such an honour to be nominated this year for the prestigious Mum of the Month awards.
Article here from Woman’s Way:
Karen O’Reilly has helped thousands of women find flexible work opportunities in Ireland since she set up her business Employmum back in 2016. Employmum, a recruitment agency which specialises in flexible work, matches employers with candidates who seek flexible or remote roles. The idea came to Karen after she moved home to Ireland with her family after living abroad. “I lived with my family in Perpignan, which is in the south of France. We had been living there for 12 years and we had our children there.”
Mum to Alanna (17) and Dylan (15), Karen says her children were the catalyst for moving back to Ireland. “We wanted them to be Irish and have the whole cultural experience. You know, learn Irish, play hurling, go to school in Ireland.”
Karen and her husband originally hail from Limerick but the family decided to put down roots in Clonakilty, West Cork, where Karen’s mother lives. “Every time we came back to Ireland we would visit her in Clonakilty and we fell in love with the place.”
Big moves are stressful and daily routines can become hectic. With two small children, who were only eight and six at the time, Karen was determined to be there for her kids while they settled in. “My husband works abroad, so he’s away for nine or ten months of the year. I’m kind of like a single mum a lot of the time,” she explains. “It was a very, very big move for [the kids]. And I wanted to be around when they came home from school – to help with homework or just to support them.”
But how could Karen manage both supporting her kids and working at the same time?
“I thought ‘I’ve got 20 years experience. I’m a qualified accountant. Surely I can find a job that can fi t around my family. How hard could that be?’”
Well, as Karen quickly discovered, Ireland had very few flexible working opportunities. “There was nobody there to help me find a job. And companies weren’t really open to flexibility back then. They weren’t interested in talking to you unless you were available to work 60 hours a week.”
It was because of this that Karen realised many other women could be struggling to find work too. “I started doing some research and I realised there were over 450,000 women, according to the Central Statistics Office, who stated their role as home duties. And many of these women at home were sitting on qualifications and experience but were pushed out of the workforce.”
And so, Employmum was born – to help mums, like Karen, who were eager to work, and had experience and qualifications, but didn’t fi t into the 9-5 box. “At the beginning, we were the only ones who spoke about flexible work, remote work, part-time work. And then, there was just this huge avalanche of interest.”
“It was great job satisfaction finding jobs for mums and people who want flexibility and want to work that way.”
With the success of Employmum, Karen then set up Employflex in 2019. e new brand was created with the idea of reaching a wider audience, as 30 per cent of placements were actually male and 50 per cent were not parents. “We added Employflex to our offering because we were getting a lot of men coming to us looking for flexibility as well,” Karen explains. “We realised the name ‘Employmum’ didn’t reach out to male candidates and so Employflex now works alongside Employmum.”
A trailblazer for the flexible work revolution in Ireland and raising two kids, how did Karen juggle the title of business owner and mum? “I worked for myself in France as well, so I was used to it. I was always very strict about setting boundaries,” she says. “When the children went to school, from nine to three, it was head down and get the work done. No other distractions.”
“When they came home, I’d take a few hours off and help them with their homework or drop them to sports. And then I might do another couple of hours in the evening as well.”
In instances when evening events took place, such as those for networking, Karen had someone to lend a helping hand. “I’m very lucky my mum lives close by, so she was able to help me.”
For any other women who want to take the leap and work flexibly, Karen has some advice.
“A lot of women end up working for themselves because they’re pushed out of the workplace,” Karen admits. “But if you want to stay in the workplace, it’s an amazing time to negotiate a flexible position for yourself.
It’s a candidate’s market.” And for those who wish to strike out on their own, perhaps to start their own business, there is some amazing local support available. “I used the help of my local enterprise office and they were fantastic. I was offered a mentor and there were small grants available to set up the website.”
“So there is fantastic support there. Women, in particular, are well supported in the entrepreneurial field in Ireland, which is brilliant.”