Maternity leave is a time to bond with your child, relax and venture through the first few months of parenthood. For me, maternity leave was filled with anxiety and dread. The time spent with my son was spent fretting about returning to work. Not only was I returning to work, but I was also returning to university. Flexible working was crucial to me wanting to have a stable and secure future.
Whilst all employees have the legal right to request flexible working, most are turned down, some without even a reason why. Working Families found that most parents on a low income are refused flexible working or feel under pressure to work extra hours unpaid. Despite it being a legal right, Digital Mums recently found in their Work That Works report that 60% of mums don't have access to flexible working in their jobs.
When I approached my employer for flexible working, I was refused without even a second thought. I understood that flexible working was something that needs to be beneficial for both employer and employee, but I was under the impression that the skills I had gained and the work I had achieved were important too.
A lot of attitudes had changed in the 9 months I had been off. I was made well aware that they weren't going to welcome me back with open arms with a manager stating that I should 'stay at home with my child on benefits like all other teen mums'. At that moment I felt worthless, I felt that all my contributions to the team and company were redundant as I was now a mother. That because I had chosen to bring up my child, I couldn't work for the company too.
The CBI found that only 1 in 10 jobs advertised mentioned flexible working, which means that employers are missing out on a whole pool of talent from mothers that need flexible working.
Flexible working should be welcomed. Having a flexible employee not only means that an employer is retaining those important skills they have trained their staff in, it also proves to their team that they believe in them and are willing to work with them to keep them as a member of staff.
Being a young parent looking for work, I've often found that jobs I've ended up in have led to no opportunities of progression or promotion. Potential employers have dismissed and judged me, expecting me to put work second when I'm in a role. I've watched countless childless colleagues surpass me and gain promotions, when I am just as qualified for the role offered. Being a parent should not be a reason to hold a young person back.
I'm not trying to say that young parents should be pitied. We are just as much of an asset as any other employee. Flexible working allows young parents to grow their skills, build their confidence and pave careers to provide for their families. It allows them to not only be valuable assets in the workplace, but also spend quality time growing their family.