School may soon be out for summer – but if your mum runs a small business you may have to settle for a summer in the back garden. New figures out today reveal that only one in four female small business owners (25%) say they will be having a two-week holiday this summer. Overall, 42% of female entrepreneurs said they couldn’t afford to take a summer holiday this year (compared to 30% across the sector) and 13% said they were too busy to take more than the odd day off from their business.
At a time when parents are being stretched by expensive child care costs and when country’s like Sweden are moving towards a more flexible approach to working in order to improve mental health, it seems that female entrepreneurs in the UK are having greater difficulty juggling work and home. Set against the legal requirement for employees to take 20 days off a year, half of all female business owners admitted to taking less than 10 days off in the last 12 months (50%) – a significantly bigger issue than for small business owners in general (30%).
Whilst 42% of female respondents said a lack of funds meant they couldn’t take time off for a decent family break this summer, around one in five (19%) also went as far to say that “if I’m not working, I am not earning.” For those that can afford time off, around one in ten women said they would be booking a UK-based holiday in order to cut back on costs (13%).
The research from Hitachi Capital asked 4,986 small business owners questions about work stresses and their work-life balance. The single biggest worry for female small business owners was not being able to switch off, an issue for 52% of women – with 38% saying they were also anxious about what would happen to their enterprise if they were unable to work. In addition, 34% of women cited late payments by their customers as a big cause of concern and 28% worried about not having enough money to invest in the business. Both these concerns were significantly more prevalent among women than small business owners in general (10% and 10% respectively).
Whilst female business owners worry about the pressure points and uncertainty of running a business – and may sacrifice summer holidays as a result – the research also suggests they are more likely to value their immediate family as a support system. In addition to relying on a supportive partner (64%), women are more likely to say they get support and encouragement from their friends (45% Vs. national average 40%) and their children (17% Vs. national average 12%). Women were also more likely to turn to their pets for comfort during moments of business stress (18% Vs national average 13%).
Gavin Wraith Carter, Managing Director at Hitachi Capital Business Finance, commented: “Many of our captains of industry today are women. Whilst more needs to be done in the corporate world to achieve greater gender equality in the Board Room, the small business sector is an area where women entrepreneurs are thriving. Our latest research suggests a large proportion of small businesses are run by women and with 33% of those predicting expansion going into the summer their contribution to the economy continues to be vital.
“The work-life balance issues, however, are a challenge – particularly at this time of year with schools breaking up for long summer holidays. It is a concern that women business owners are taking so little holiday and the root cause of many of their worries relates to cash flow and access to finance. There is an important role for the financial community to play here, to provide structured support when its needed so female business owners feel more supported, feel better able to switch off – and feel they can leave the business for a few weeks to have a break in the sun with the family.”
|National average||Female small business owners|
Not being able to ‘switch off’
Difficult customers e.g. dealing with complaints etc.
Difficulty with staff e.g. disputes, disruption etc.
|Thinking about what would happen if I was unable to work||29%||38%|
|Difficulty finding staff of the right experience/ quality||24%||11%|
|Late payment by customers||10%||34%|
|Being up to date with regulations||21%||22%|
|Not having enough money to invest in the business||10%||34%|