Survey results: Un-family friendly Britain

To mark Mumsnet’s third annual Family Friendly awards, where we were joined by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to celebrate those companies pioneering the best in family friendly policies, we conducted a survey into the experiences of women returning to work after starting a family.

Key findings

As part of the Family Friendly initiative, Mumsnet has also published a new survey showing that of women who return to work after starting a family:

  • 60% felt less employable since having a child and
  • Three quarters (75%) said it was harder to progress in their career.

During pregnancy 17% said their line manager/employer was not supportive.
Of those who felt this:

  • Nearly half (47%) say they were made to feel guilty
  • 1 in 4 (26%) said their job was under threat
  • More than 1 in 3 (37%) say they felt ignored when it came to career progression.

And on returning to work a quarter of respondents (25%) say their line manager/employer was not supportive.
Of those that felt this:

  • Nearly half (46%) of these say they were made to feel guilty for leaving on time to collect their child/children.
  • Over a quarter (26%) say they felt their job was under threat

Asked about what employers could do to be more family friendly, the single most popular workplace policy was flexible working, with 28% of respondents favouring this option. Next most popular was emergency childcare provision with 15% support, job shares received 9% support and specific back to work programmes got backing from support of 8% of participants.

Mumsnetters’ comments

"I was told that no-one wanted to see a pregnant woman waddling around the restaurant."

[On informing my employer I was pregnant] "I was told [by my boss he] was very disappointed in me!"

"My role had already been put at risk of redundancy; other job opportunities mysteriously dried up."

"Two weeks after returning to work I was deployed for 1 month over 100 miles from home. No choice but to stop breast feeding."

"My job was given to someone else whilst I was on maternity leave; I was not made aware until I had my return to work interview."

"Deliberately pushed towards less financially rewarding role as it was assumed I would not be interested in a more challenging and lucrative role any more."

Other findings 

  • 1 in 5 respondents felt their own experiences didn’t match their company's stated policies
  • A quarter (26%) said their company had no returning to work policy
  • 22% of respondents said their employer did have a phased return to work policy
  • Nearly 8 out of 10 respondents agreed that there needs to be a cultural change or shift to reduce discrimination around maternity leave
  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents say current safeguards are not enough
  • Over half (56%) said more legislation was needed.

Justine Roberts, Mumsnet CEO, said:
"While we have legislation designed to protect women against discrimination in the workplace it’s clear that in many cases companies are simply not following the rules.

Our survey reveals how important the culture created at work is. As members of our Family Friendly programme attest supporting women on their return to work improves retention rates and ultimately adds value to a company.

But with over half of mums saying they felt less employable and three-quarters saying it was harder to progress in their career since having children, it’s clear there’s still lots of work to be done to ensure family friendly practices are commonplace."

Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, said:

"It is sadly still far too common for women to feel shoved aside at work because they’ve decided to have children. Aside from the obvious unfairness, it’s also bad for our economy, which means everybody ends up losing out.

Fortunately there are many employers out there who do understand the need to retain the best staff and who want to help families better balance work and home. The companies being recognised today set a shining example.

Modern families come in every thinkable shape and size. In many cases mothers want to work and fathers want to spend more time at home. We need to dramatically update our working practices to accommodate these realities, helping families juggle their lives as they see fit.

"That is why from April 2015, the Coalition Government is introducing shared parental leave to ensure career options remain open to women after pregnancy."


Last updated: over 1 year ago