How small businesses can encourage mothers returning to work, and why this makes business sense

Over 99% of businesses in the UK are small and medium enterprises and, according to Wasp Barcode’s annual State of Small Business Report, 50% of small businesses say hiring new employees is the top challenge they face.

‘Parents’ represent a great pool of talent; however they seem to not be noticed by many small businesses.

In fact, in some cases they are avoided. According to the Guardian: 40% of managers avoid hiring younger women to get around the issue and costs of maternity leave.

There are many ways small businesses can engage and encourage  women to go back to work after having children. Here are 4 suggestions on how you can tap into this hidden talent;

1. Flexible working

Many women returning to work find that in order to combine work with ongoing caring commitments; flexible working arrangements – job-sharing, working from home and part time staggered hours are needed.

However, many smaller companies in particular do not really understand those options (especially job sharing). Therefore, it will take them longer to implement, leaving a very small number of jobs that are actually advertised offering flexibility.

According to a PwC report, opportunities are constrained by the lack of flexible or part-time roles available for higher-skilled jobs.

A 2015 survey by Timewise shows that only 6% of advertised roles with a salary of over £20,000 are available on a flexible basis. The figure is even lower, at just 2%, for jobs with a salary of over £100,000.

2. Support Schemes

When working parents are in need of advice or motivation, they instinctively look to colleagues and peers who are also working parents or have been in a similar situation to them during any length of employment.

One simple and effective way to combat this is introducing a buddy scheme in the workplace offering support for parents by parents, where companies can foster a peer-to-peer learning environment.

This does not require huge resources or commitment and can make a real difference in the workplace.

3. Mindfulness

There are times when parenthood becomes tough, and even the most disciplined and structured parent can feel overwhelmed. This is where mindfulness can help.

Becoming more mindful improves the ability to concentrate. It also helps approach things with more acceptance and objectivity, which helps to reduce stress levels. It is something parents can practice a few minutes each day at home, during their commute, and at work.

Employers can provide a relaxing space, tech-free or a community zone for employees to practice mindfulness. It could be for 20 minutes or 60 seconds each day, at their desk or in a group session.

You can also offer access to mindfulness apps and encourage employees to step away from using technology, mobile phones and computers during lunch breaks and on a regular basis throughout the working day.

4. Communication

Another incredibly easy way to make workloads easier to deal with (for every employee, not just working parents) is to label your communications to reflect the urgency of that communication.

It may sound like a common sense but a lot of companies do not encourage that practice: mark relevant emails when communicating with fellow employees as FYI OnlyNot UrgentFor MondayUrgent!; etc.

This simple technique helps everyone prioritise and manage assignments and, therefore, not get stressed about receiving another email when it is time to pick up children.

Managers could also be encouraged to communicate and plan assignments involving staff members within the team and agree deadlines together, giving ownership to employees but also keeping it transparent with regards to the workload and realistic timeframes.

A return on your investment

These measures make sense for many reasons and can help improve the performance and working experience of all staff, but for companies concerned about retaining talent, the dividends can be great.

Encouraging women back to work after maternity leave and offering flexible working options and support services means access to a wealth of experience, and can be a cost-effective solution compared to the costs of recruiting new staff, the necessary training and the time it takes fresh staff to get up to speed.

By helping parents return to work, small businesses can both attract and retain experienced, talented workers, and see a direct impact on their bottom lines.

About the author

This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Yuliana Topazly, founder of – a supportive community of parents and experts who are there to help each other, offer advice, and share experiences.

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