Mumsnet tackles 'motherhood penalty' with jobs site

Parenting website Mumsnet is to launch a job site focused on family-friendly roles in an attempt to tackle the "motherhood penalty" that many women face when they return to work.

Despite the fact successive governments have greatly extended workers' rights to include flexible working, and corporate leaders from all industries have spoken warmly of the need for change, survey after survey has shown the reality for many women is very different.

A report by the Institute of Public Policy Research this year found that just 19 per cent of working women in the UK were able to vary the hours they work, whereas in Sweden the proportion was more than double that.

One of the known problems is that many flexible working arrangements are only established when current employees ask for them, meaning it is hard for women applying for advertised jobs to know what options are open to them.

While the jobs board will not have any formal restrictions on what roles can be posted, Mumsnet said the key focus would be on employers signed up to family-friendly practices. It will launch with about 4,000 roles on the site, with big corporate launch partners including Tesco, PwC and Barclays.

Justine Roberts, founder and chief executive of Mumsnet, said that most mothers - but relatively few fathers - suffer professionally when they have children, and "one way forward is for women to vote with their feet, and take their skills and experience to forward-thinking employers".

Research from Mumsnet published in conjunction with the launch found that 71 per cent of users cited flexible hours or arrangements - such as allowing them to pick children up from school - as their main priority in looking for a job.

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Gaenor Bagley, head of people at PwC, said advertising on the site for them was a way to ensure their jobs reached as many types of people as possible - including those who may have preconceived ideas about accountancy and professional services groups.

She said that PwC has made an effort to think about how it advertises, noting that in previous years there may well have been someone working flexibly in a job, but when it came to advertise for a replacement this was not necessarily mentioned.

"We want to open up the conversation," she said, adding that the idea that people could only do flexible working when they were known and trusted by an organisation was "clearly daft".

"If they are the right person then we would want to talk to them about a way of working that was good for them," Ms Bagley said.

Recent data from the Office for National Statistics shows that for full-time employees, the general pay gap narrowed from 10 per cent to 9.4 per cent, in 2014, the smallest gap since 1997. However, this rises to 19.1 per cent when part-time workers are included.

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