Parliamentary committee wants your views on issues faced by working women

(127 Posts)
FrancesMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 10-Dec-12 11:48:00

The House of Commons' Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into Women in the Workplace. The Committee is examining what steps are being taken to tackle workplace gender inequality, and what more should be done.

The Committee is keen to hear Mumsnetters' views on this issue, in addition to the formal evidence sessions that will take place in Westminster.

They are especially interested in your opinion on:

*Obstacles for women wishing to progress in the workplace
*Issues faced by women wishing to return to work following childbirth
*The gender pay gap
*Flexible working

This is not an exhaustive list: the Committee welcomes your comments on any area within the inquiry's terms of reference, which are available on the Parliament website

Thanks,
MNHQ

FivesGoldNorks Mon 10-Dec-12 11:50:43

As always I think one of the main problems is that returning to work is seen as a woman's problem.
I think a culture of women being seen as the part timers / working for pocket money/ working if it happens to fit around their husband's actual career is the main culprit.
<bitter>

bunjies Mon 10-Dec-12 11:53:48

My public sector employer is on the face of it very supportive of flexible working but in my experience the problem lies with the line managers. Unless you are managed by someone who is sympathetic to the issues themselves quite often the requests are refused on 'business grounds'. Commonly these are mainly down to the fact that the manager is very narrow minded & doesn't believe the work can be done in a flexible way. I imagine the situation is even worse within small/medium private sector companies.

TunipTheVegedude Mon 10-Dec-12 12:01:38

OK, here are mine.

1. Cost of childcare. I had a good professional job but I still only broke even on working with 2 kids in childcare and would have made a big loss once my third kid was born. And yes I know it comes out of the husband's income too, but the fact remains that you are still talking about losing out as a family by having both of you at work.

2. Trouble accessing wrap-around and emergency childcare especially if you don't have family in the area you can call on. A sick child, for dh and me, meant frantic discussions over whose career would be most damaged by staying at home that day.

3. Lack of opportunities to re-enter the workplace for women who have taken time out to care for children, meaning that many are working at well below their skill level - how can that make economic sense for the nation as a whole? Even with skills that are very much in demand you are often looking at paying large fees to keep up professional registration, or prohibitive amounts of retraining demanded to re-enter your former career and no clear path for doing so.

4. Discrimination against mothers, either in the workplace or when applying for jobs. Many women find that what seemed like woman-friendly workplaces when they were childless suddenly seem to become hostile once they have children. I have lost count of the number of brilliant, dedicated women I know whose careers have stalled at 40 despite the same thing not happening to their husbands.

SofiaAmes Mon 10-Dec-12 12:16:07

Both my dc's were born in London and I then moved to the USA when they were 3 and 5 respectively. I found being a working mother difficult in both countries. Although my statutory rights were greater in the UK, the logistics of my life were far simpler in the USA. My UK employer was supposed to give me flexible hours, which he did, but I was given less responsibility and lower pay as a result. In the USA, my employer was not required to give me flexible hours, but did because they had to figure out how to get the most out of me within my time constraints...this meant that although my pay was lower, it was not as comparatively low as it had been in the UK and my responsibilities were far greater. Also the system for maternity pay was so complicated that neither my employer's accountant, nor I with my 3 degrees could ever agree on a payment figure.
However, the most difficult part about being a working parent (this applies to males and females) in the UK for me was the lack of appropriate infrastructure. The shops were not open late and on the weekends when I was available to do my grocery shopping. I was not allowed to choose a GP or state nursery/school near my work (had to be one close to my home), which made the logistics of getting my child and myself to school/work/dr much more difficult to manage. Many of the high streets with small local shops are not car friendly which makes juggling 2 children, groceries, dr appointments and a job too time consuming to be managed even with just a part time flexible job. These types of logistics are far easier to manage here in the USA which I felt made me a more valuable worker.

TrillsCarolsOutOfTune Mon 10-Dec-12 12:21:11

Flexible working should not just be for mothers, or parents, or women, it should be for everyone who does a job that could be done in a flexible manner.

OhGood Mon 10-Dec-12 12:43:38

Basic sexism - like hearing make colleagues comment on female colleages' sexual attractiveness - still happens.

Gintonic Mon 10-Dec-12 13:06:47

Lack of flexible or part time working options is very unfair on women with children. I am very lucky as my employer has agreed to let me return part time, but few mothers I know have this option. In my area it is hard to find childcare beyond 6 pm, and many people commute for over an hour - it just is not possible if your employer is not flexible. Women are forced to give up work, as they tend to be the lower earner in a couple. 5 years down the track you are then looking for a job to fit with school hours, but your skills are out of date.

The government needs to legislate to force employers to offer part time work. This would help fathers as well as mothers as it would mean parents could share the work of parenting more equally. Yes employers will complain and there will have to be some exceptions, but it could help cut the benefits bill as when relationships inevitably break up fewer women will be stuck in the benefits trap with no up to date skills or work experience.

wheredoistartmrs Mon 10-Dec-12 13:07:26

give us a break financially with childcare, we come out with less than people on benefits.

LilRosiesMum Mon 10-Dec-12 13:13:18

Agree with Gintonic. Employers need to be urged to create lots of 10am - 2pm part-time jobs. Then it fits with school pick-ups and even with early years settings. I don't think many employers would even think about this as an option at the moment.

Hopingforhapppiness Mon 10-Dec-12 13:27:53

1. Nannies' wages should be tax deductible. After paying 40% tax on my own salary plus 10% NI (or thereabouts) then tax on Nanny's salary and NI, effectively every pound I earn is only worth about 35 pence. This makes going to work difficult to justify.

2. There should be some sort of protected right to take time off when a small child is sick and so not allowed to attend day nursery, or when the nanny is sick and unable to work. I felt vulnerable and bad every time I was forced to pretend "I" was sick in order to care for my child.

3. Men should be expected to do more childcare! I am not sure how the govt can help achieve this.

Anchorwoman Mon 10-Dec-12 13:35:40

I think the problem with most of these issues is that they are imposed unequally in the first place. If parental leave following birth was equally proportioned then career progression, issues relating to returning to work and the gender pay gap would not be such a 'women's issue'.

I have worked in both public and private sectors. I have been asked at interview what relationship im currently in and if I plan on having a baby. I have seen colleagues being employed on the proviso that they sign a contract saying they won't fall pregnant in the first two years. I have heard managers discussing promotion opportunities and openly talking about whether the role will be suitable for the woman based on her being likely to have a baby. Same with training opportunities, and whether it will be worth their investment.

Since having a family myself I have asked for flexible working hours and to work from home in order to avoid adding commuting time to an already long day, to find that the attitude is if your coat isn't on the back of an office chair you are not really working.

I also identify with what Bunjies said about line managers. My current organisation describes itself as being very good at offering flexible and family friendly working but my experience of that has been vastly different with different line managers. It is up to them to interpret the organisations policies as they wish really and if they are not sympathetic to your situation or have very fixed views themselves as to what working practices they want to see, there is absolutely nothing you can do. Challenging your manager on this can also contribute further to the problem.

Whatever gender equality policies companies wave around when asked seems to bear no relation sometimes to their actual practices. This won't stop IMO until there is no basis upon which to discriminate in the first place.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Mon 10-Dec-12 13:37:02

The cost of childcare.

It should be completely tax-deductible and then the voucher scheme can be scrapped, as can the childcare element of tax credits.

I also think that work needs to be done to encourage employers to allow fathers to work more flexibly too, so that they can share the burden of drop offs, pick ups, taking time off to care for sick children and so on.

IceNoSlice Mon 10-Dec-12 13:51:57

Childcare costs should be tax deductible. My DH and I are both higher rate tax payer so it is surely better for the economy to keep us both in work as well as taking taxes from childcare staff? However there comes a point whereby the financial benefit to us of both of us working is negated by childcare costs. Doesn't make sense (for the government) in the long term as they will lose tax revenue.

Flexible working at my company means taking whole days out (eg working 3 or 4 days per week). I like the suggestion above for employers to consider PT roles during school hours (10-2 or 3).

TwistedTinsel Mon 10-Dec-12 13:53:20

Emergency childcare is a night mare to sort (can't imagine why no one would want to look after my plague ridden darling). The cost is a major barrier. I wanted to work f/t but couldn't afford to. I was lucky i got to reduce my hours but it could have cost me my employment. It was impossible to plan /budget because i couldn't find out what help with costs i would be entitled to.

I felt horribly out of my depth when i returned to work and would have loved some more training to get me back on track.

TunipTheVegedude Mon 10-Dec-12 13:57:55

IceNoSlice - yup. I used to pay lots of lovely tax when I could afford to work grin

CanonFodder Mon 10-Dec-12 14:02:43

Issues faced by women wishing to return to work following childbirth.

This is the most pertinent for me, I was made redundant whilst on Mat leave. It is nigh on impossible to get a part time job that fits in with childcare hours if you haven't previously been in the role as a full time member of staff. I wanted to be at home as much as possible for my two, and number two took a long time coming. So now i have a 7 year gap on my C.V. and despite years of experience and degrees in my field I am virtually unemployable at anything less than minimum wage. So basically my degree....and the debt I incurred to get it, and missing out on the housing ladder due to paying back that debt, were all for nothing.
I have stated my own business in desperation, but it's very hit and miss. I'd like to see some form of job share or part time provision made for mothers, so that we don't HAVE to put our kids in childcare for 10 hours a day just so we can get back to working.

TeeElfOnTeeShelf Mon 10-Dec-12 14:10:50

The key issue has got to be the cost of childcare. But I do not know how we make it affordable for us and still pay the workers a living wage.

Unless the government can make it tax deductible or subsidise it.

Cost & Availability of childcare is probably the main issue for us.

Firstly the cost of the actual childcare plus commuting costs would have more than cancelled out anything I would earn if I went back to work. So, as a family unit, we'd be worse off. OTOH this won't be an issue when both children are at school.

The second issue is the lack of childcare options. The nurseries and after-school club here are only open until 6pm. That doesn't leave enough time to get home from the city centre to pick them up by about 5-10 minutes. I was actually planning to speak to the afterschool club about extending it's hours by 15 minutes for this reason but Dh has changed jobs and it's no longer a problem for us .

We also have no options for when the kids are sick. We have no family near by (my family all 2hrs+ away and Dh's family are 4hrs+) . Friends are either childless & working or have kids so don't want to look after other people's sick kids. What on earth do people do in that situation? (and particularly when everyday childcare costs mean it's only just worthwhile working and emergency childcare costs would wipe that out) I'd love to see some form of affordable emergency childcare.

TrillsCarolsOutOfTune Mon 10-Dec-12 14:32:23

I'd like to point out that childcare is an issue for parents not just for women. Or it should be!

TeeElfOnTeeShelf Mon 10-Dec-12 14:35:11

Absolutely Trills.

Ill child care especially is an issue. I don't know of any nursery or child minder who can or will take an ill child on. I'm lucky in that I freelance and can take care of my son when he's not at school but if I couldn't, I'd have a problem as I have no family near by.

ApuskiMcClusky Mon 10-Dec-12 14:39:22

I've been lucky to be able to continue working in my field part time, though agree with the difficulty of managing this. During the preschool years, the biggest issue has been the cost of childcare. Now I'm entering into school years, it's the logistics of wraparound and holiday care that is causing most problems - limited after school provision and no available childminders here. I would love to be able to pay someone to have the kids after school without them having to be formally registered as a childminder - after school provision is very different to baby / preschool provision IMO.

Brawhen Mon 10-Dec-12 14:54:43

Biggest issue = the practical support of British Men.

Responsibility for the everyday practicalities of family life is general seen/practised as women's role. Bearing cost of childcare is generally seen as responsibility of women's salaries.

I could not sustain my career because it effectively required me to have an unpaid 'wife' in support. More women can work more if more men take on more of the 'wife' role.

Stop pretending that there isn't work in bringing up a family - instead, get men to take up some of that work.

Brawhen Mon 10-Dec-12 15:00:58

Biggest issue = the practical support of British Men.

Responsibility for the everyday practicalities of family life is general seen/practised as women's role. Bearing cost of childcare is generally seen as responsibility of women's salaries.

I could not sustain my career because it effectively required me to have an unpaid 'wife' in support. More women can work more if more men take on more of the 'wife' role.

Stop pretending that there isn't work in bringing up a family - instead, get men to take up some of that work.

Brawhen Mon 10-Dec-12 15:06:03

Sorry for double post - site went down.

Also - re-reading that - the "British Men" bit isn't intended to be some kind of racist invective - I mean 'men in Britain', as relevant to the scope of the committee. I'll stop digging now!

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