A quarter of mums driven out of job due to dated working practices

Whilst three quarters (74%) of women intend to return to the same employer following a career break, a quarter (24%) change company before returning due to workplace perks and culture no longer suiting their needs as a parent.

Half of women (53%) who took maternity leave felt they were disadvantaged when they returned and, as a result, 58% of mums have made the move into a ‘family friendly’ industry after their career break.

The findings come from a 3-part research series from global recruiter Robert Walters, who surveyed 4,500 female professionals across the UK for the second report in the series: Attracting & Engaging Women Returning to the Workforce.

Lucy Bisset, Director of Robert Walters North West, said: “The UK has reached a record high in the number of working mums – with 75% of mothers in work, largely driven by the number of women taking on full-time roles.

“It would be a big loss to undo this trend simply because we aren’t listening to the needs of working parents. Whilst part-time work is popular for mums, what this report highlights is that we could in fact encourage more women back into fulltime work after a career break if we listen to their needs around flexi-hours and remote working.”


  • 84% of working mums want the option to work from home, yet only a third (39%) of employers offer this
  • 80% of women consider subsidised healthcare important, yet only 50% of employers offer it
  • 79% of women would consider a mentor helpful when returning to work, but just 8% offer this
  • 67% of working mums would like to have the time to exercise during the day, however less than a third (32%) of employers have a policy allowing staff the flexibility to do so
  • 43% of mums want the opportunity to job share, however just 12% of employers give them this opportunity
  • 37% consider on-site childcare to be important, but just 2% of employers offer this.

Habiba Khatoon, Director of Robert Walters Midlands said: “Evidently, employers are struggling to retain staff who take career breaks. With three quarters of women highlighting that maintaining social relationships with colleagues is helpful in their return companies should look to introduce simple initiatives such as office visits, email newsletters and invitations to team and work events to help bridge this gap of isolation that working mums feel whilst they are on maternity leave.”

Perks that appeal to working mums when looking for a new role
Good salary 90%
Personalised development plans 89%
Career progression 88%
Well-being initiatives 82%
Enhanced maternity leave 80%
Flexi-hours 79%
Ability to buy annual leave 72%
Social events 60%

Janine Blacksley, Director at Robert Walters Milton Keynes, comments:

“With only 24% of women returning to the same employer after a career break, that means most women returning to the workforce are looking for a new job. As a result, employers that understand what women in this situation are looking for are positioned to attract the best talent.

“Employers looking to recruit women who have taken a career break should be aware of the valuable skills these professionals may have developed during their time away from the workplace.

“Experience in other areas, such as volunteering, pursuing higher education, freelancing or working in another field, means that they can offer unique perspectives when they return to their careers.”

Experience women gained during a career break
Pursued education 25%
Volunteered for a charity 23%
Started a business 22%
Worked in another field 21%
Freelanced 18%
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