Vast majority of female employees move to part-time and flexible work after maternity leave

05 August 2013
  • The majority of female employees (83%) who return to work move into part-time and/or flexible working roles upon their return from maternity leave
  • Almost three quarters (71%) of UK HR directors report that they have already created flexible working arrangements as a way to retain new mothers
  • Fifty-one per cent of UK HR directors say that more than half of female managers return to work after maternity leave compared to 40% who report that staff-level female employees come back to work
  • Two-thirds (66%) of new fathers fail to take their maximum allotted paternity leave
  • Top reasons given for not taking paternity leave include financial considerations (62%), societal pressures (41%), excessive workload (34%) and perception in the workplace (25%)

London, 05 August 2013 – The majority (83%) of female employees move into part-time and/or flexible working roles on their return from maternity leave according to new research1 with UK HR directors published today by leading recruitment specialist Robert Half.  This rises to 92% of employees in London and the South East, but falls to 70% in the North and Scotland and 78% in the Midlands. 

The research is based on a survey developed by Robert Half, the world's first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy. It is based on responses from 200 HR directors in the UK.

When maternity leave has ended, female managers are more likely to return to work than female staff-level workers, according to the research.  Over half (51%) say that more than 50% of female managers return to work after maternity leave, compared to just 40% who report that the same proportion of staff level employees return.

Anticipating the requirement for flexible working, almost three-quarters (71%) of HR directors say that they already have arrangements to provide this benefit, while a further 13% are planning to put them in place. 

Other initiatives that companies have put in place to help retain new mothers include part-time or job share opportunities (58%), childcare vouchers (32%), on-site childcare (18%), telecommuting (17%) and family health and dental plans (16%). 

Despite the fact that organisations are legally obliged to offer one or two weeks' paternity leave, two-thirds (66%) of new dads fail to take their maximum allocation, according to Robert Half's research. Fathers are more likely to take the full allowance in London and the South East (37% each) than those in the Midlands or North (30% of both). 

The main reason for new fathers not taking maximum parental allocation is 'financial considerations' (62%), followed by societal pressures (41%), excessive workload (34%) and perception in the workplace (25%).  Financial considerations are less of an issue in London and the South East (49%) than in the South West and Wales (68%), Midlands (69%) and the North and Scotland (72%), while perception in the workplace was cited by a higher proportion of respondents than average by HR directors in the North and Scotland (31%).

Estelle James, director of Robert Half UK, said: "It bodes well for businesses that such a high proportion of new mums now want to return to work, particularly those in a management role.  The majority of HR directors in our survey understand that female returners want to come back to work in a flexible, part-time or job sharing capacity, so it's good to see that they have already put measures in place to provide these opportunities – or plan to in the future. Hopefully this will support women in business as we look to get more female representation in executive and board-level roles."

1 Robert Half surveyed 200 HR directors in UK companies in June 2013

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About Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. Founded in 1948, the company has over 350 offices worldwide providing temporary, interim and permanent recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, human resources and administrative professionals. Named one of the Sunday Times’ 100 Best Companies to Work For, Robert Half offers workplace and job seeker resources at roberthalf.co.uk and twitter.com/roberthalfuk.