6 November 2023

The second of two reports from the Fawcett Society and Totaljobs demonstrates the disproportionate impact childcare responsibilities have on women and their careers. 

Read Paths to Parenthood: Uplifting New Mothers at Work 

Key findings include:

  • One in ten working mothers quit jobs due to childcare pressures 
  • Two fifths of working mothers have turned down a promotion due to childcare pressures 
  • Working mothers are 1.4 times more likely to feel the financial burden of childcare costs compared to working fathers 
  • Only a third (31%) of working mothers have access to the flexible working arrangement that they need
  • 85% of working mothers struggle to find a job that can accommodate their childcare needs

Jemima Olchawski, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, said:

The Fawcett Society believes in workplaces that work for all women, at every stage of our careers and lives. The few years that a mother spends looking after children is a tiny proportion of her working life.

Too often, outdated prejudices and assumptions mean that women face unnecessary and harmful attitudes that hold them back. This results in many women stuck in roles that are below their capabilities. 

For business who are struggling to retain talent and combat ongoing skills shortages, the opportunity to develop promising careers that should never have stalled in the first place is an obvious step towards solving these issues.

This must change. Importantly, that support must go to women who are out of the workforce longest, particularly those who take over 26 weeks of maternity leave, as well as women who are low-paid, those who are single parents. It isn't good enough to have supportive policies on paper, businesses need to make those a reality in the workplace and create genuinely family-friendly cultures.

It's clear that often it is Black and minoritised women and lone parents who are at the sharpest end of restrictive stereotypes, so a meaningful commitment to closing the gender pay gap and supporting returning mothers must consider the specific experiences of women from these groups. 

The data clearly shows that flexible working is the most important demand from working parents. Only when we fully embrace company-wide cultures of flexible working will we see mothers have the best chance of being fully integrated into the workforce.

We call on businesses and government to prioritise ending the motherhood penalty by properly supporting women to balance their work and caring responsibilities. Right now, the UK simply cannot afford to let these talents go to waste.

Jane Lorigan, Chief Executive of Totaljobs, said:

There are more mothers in the workplace than ever before, and businesses need to create an environment where they can flourish. With critical labour shortages, the pressures of childcare could ultimately have a longer-term impact on our ever-shrinking workforce. Not only do working parents need more support, but we need to ensure this support extends to the people who need it the most. 

While businesses can only go so far without a Government policy change, there are very important steps they can take to improve the situation. Tracking the progress of working mothers when they return from maternity leave will help highlight any shortcomings from the business side. Creating a clear policy framework will let everyone know where they stand. And clearly signposting the support available will ensure no working mother misses out on the support she is entitled to.

Help create workplaces that work for women.