For optimal viewing experiences on our webiste please rotate your mobile device

Pre-Covid, we used to speak about the motherhood penalty and the burden of the second shift once a working mum came home from their paying job to commence the management of the household.

Now, as we wade our way through the new Covid rules and restrictions, the uncertainty of the future of work, with children being sent home from schools and many parents really struggling with the juggling of it all, both emotionally and financially, it seems like, once again it is mum’s career that is suffering the most.

A recent McKinsey report states that 33% of working mothers have had to downgrade their positions or leave work entirely during the pandemic, a veritable she-cession.

Flexible recruitment agency, EmployMum sees a fourfold increase in mums contacting them seeking a more flexible role or trying to get back into the workforce after being forced out during Covid.

The calibre of candidates contacting us is so high. We are talking about women who have years of experience, skills and qualifications, who are now doubting themselves and the lack of confidence among this cohort of women is an epidemic in itself’.

The reasons mums have been adversely affected by Covid are many with so many reaching burnout and throwing in the towel as they found the whole situation unsustainable.

Women also have traditionally held jobs that were susceptible to being hardest hit, like hospitality and caring roles. The fact is that many of these women may never return to work.

The gender pay gap also was the push for some mums as, generally the lesser earner in a partnership meant that finances forced them to leave work to care for the children during lockdown.

We are seeing women who may have taken redundancy or a break just before Covid and are only seeking to return now as life seems to be settling into some remnant of normality. What we need now is a work culture that welcomes these women back and does not punitively view their ‘Covid gap’ in their CV over the last two years.

Diversity and inclusion policies in large organisations mean zilch if HR are not on board to assist with their struggle to regain a footing in their careers’.

So what can employers and HR teams do?

Offer real flexibility

There was always an appetite for flexible work from mums in the workplace. These tentative requests have exploded into a roar from working mums all across the globe. The injustice of being the sacrificial working lambs is all too evident as mum is left holding the baby once again. We have taken so many steps backwards with equality in the workforce in these past 18 months and this needs to be addressed.

Companies offering true flexibility in the workplace can now give those mums the leg up and assist them in their return meanwhile gaining competitive advantage by attracting the best talent and holding on to them.

Flexibility can take many forms offering a pathway back to employment, full time with flexible hours, remote and hybrid models, part time, job share, term time, compressed hours, annualised hours and ROWE are all options that companies can consider offering.

Upskilling opportunities

If the ‘pandemic gap’ exists for people and you have a shortage of skills, now may be an excellent time to introduce a returnship programme – a returnship works like an internship at a higher level, for people who are returning after a break.

Companies we work with like DePuy Synthes offer real opportunities to returners who feel like the door has been slammed in their face many times. This is also a powerful message from a company to say that yes, our doors are open to returners, and we actively welcome and encourage you to come and work here.

Look for diverse applicants

Ensure that there is diversity in the pool of candidates you are meeting for roles – partnering with companies like EmployMum and EmployFlex will guarantee this. Review your job specifications for gender bias ensuring that you are not eliminating people with your choice of intimidating vocabulary or words that come across more masculine or feminine – apps like Textio can assist your HR team.

Remember that many women and mums in particular suffering from Imposter Syndrome will not apply for a role unless they can tick everything on the job spec. If your job description is four pages long and filled with less known jargon, you are immediately eliminating a certain segment.

Be Kind

A woman’s psychological contract with her workplace is far stronger and complex than her male counterpart. As we have had time to evaluate where we are and where we are going with our careers, many females are now seeking to work with companies that mirror their ideals and values. Does your company’s messaging say that about you and if so, are you really walking the talk? Have a look at your culture, is it equitable and review the messaging on your website and social media for any biases you may have been otherwise unaware of.

Companies have a real opportunity now to welcome women back, to nurture people who have been inordinately affected by the pandemic by giving working mothers the same opportunities to reclaim and advance their careers.

We may have unintentionally gone backwards in terms of an equitable playing field as we navigated our way through Covid, but now we have an opportunity to embrace flexibility, empathy, kindness and inclusiveness in the workplace. Those companies that do so will be rewarded with obtaining and retain the most hardworking and loyal people. We are, after all, in the throes of a talent shortage so attracting people from the widest pool of talent available AND holding on to them is a win-win for all.

Full article published on the Irish Examiner :