Does Having a Baby Set A Woman’s Career Back Six Years?

One of the many important questions we women ask ourselves if we have invested heavily in our work is “will having a baby ruin my career”?

The bad news is that having a baby can set a woman’s career back six years, according to a study of mothers carried out in September 2017.

Will having a baby ruin my career? Woman taking notes at a laptop

Photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash

Will having a baby ruin my career?

Researchers found becoming a mum can lead to missed promotion opportunities, issues caused by staff, management or procedural changes in the workplace as well as the fact new mums arrive back at work with different priorities.

Around half of those polled said having a baby had a negative effect on their career, with 42 per cent of them believing they would be in a more senior position if they didn’t have kids.

It also emerged 37 per cent of working mums believe they have been discriminated against since having a child.

Commissioned by Easy Offices, the research of 1,000 mums with a child aged one to 13 also found four in 10 would advise mums-to-be to be ‘wary’ about returning to work following maternity leave.

A spokesman for Easy Offices said: “Many women will be wondering about how having a baby could affect their career.

“So we polled mothers who know from experience just what impact having a child can have.

“The findings show how difficult it is to adjust to the new priorities that come with having a baby but also suggest it can be hard to reintegrate into the workplace.”

Three in 10 have experienced negativity from colleagues because they have had to take time off to care for their kids.

And over a quarter admit they initially felt left out by colleagues when they came back to work.

Thirty-five per cent noticed a change in work processes, while a third said the dynamics in their team had changed.

Amid this, over a third of those surveyed believe it takes time to regain self-confidence in the workplace following the birth of a child.

Mums believe it typically takes 13 months to get back up to speed upon returning to work after maternity leave.

While half said it took time for them to get used to juggling work and looking after their children – on average taking them 15 months.

But, the survey carried out by, also found a quarter of those polled have left job roles because they found it too difficult to juggle both roles.

On average mothers said they went on maternity leave for 30 weeks – around seven months – for their most recent child.

However, three in ten didn’t return to the place they worked at prior to having a baby.

Those polled believe they have missed out on an average of two promotions during their time away from work.

A spokesman for Easy Offices added: “It may not be a surprise to learn having a baby changes your life but we might not realise just how long it takes to adjust to it – especially in the workplace.

“The working world moves forward at a fast pace so it’s understandable mums would find returning to work a bit of a shock to the system.

“Perhaps colleagues may not fully appreciate this point of view so mothers might feel more could be done to rectify this.”

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Mums Forced Out Of Work Due To Lack Of Flexible Jobs

In my time in the corporate world, it quickly became clear that all jobs were not created equal. Time after time I would see women in relatively senior positions return from maternity leave only to find out that their role had mysteriously been redefined.  Or, if they did request a more flexible working arrangement, this would be frowned upon and deemed as unfair to the rest of the staff (often predominantly women).

women working at pc

Many of the firms I worked for considered themselves above the constraints of employment law – or at least they knew very well how to circumvent them.

As usual, mums and those without kids were pitted against each other.  Occasionally there might be a half-hearted attempt at a ‘job share’ but, in general, the working lives of women returners were often made so untenable that they left.

So it was no surprise to read that is calling for improved education on employment rights and toughening up of legislation

Nearly one in five (18%) working mums have been forced to leave their jobs because a flexible working request has been turned down, according to’s annual survey published on 18th October this year.

The survey of over 2,000 women in’s 10th anniversary year shows that over a quarter (26%) of mums in work have had a flexible working request turned down. Some 12 per cent said their employer did not even seem to consider their request at all and over a quarter (27%) said the reason given for turning down the request was not one which is allowable under flexible working legislation.

For women currently on maternity leave the figures were higher: 35% of those who had had a flexible working request turned down had had it rejected on grounds other than reasons which are allowable under flexible working legislation. Some 68% said they did not feel the rejection was justified. However, 79% did not appeal. This was not surprising given only 5% appealed successfully. Some 41% of those on maternity leave said refusal of flexible working would mean they might not return to their job, yet 50% said they had not discussed flexible working before going on maternity leave.

The survey shows that availability of flexible working is the key career development issue for working mums, with some element of homeworking the most valued, particularly for those wanting to work full time. Other barriers included childcare costs – half of women currently on maternity leave said childcare costs could prevent them returning to work.

Flexible working legislation was extended to all employees in 2014, but some provisions of the original legislation, such as the statutory right of appeal, were watered down.

The survey shows a divide between those women who have extremely flexible jobs (10%) and those who have no flexibility at all (9%) or whose jobs are not very flexible (26%).

It also reveals that many employers are failing to retain the skills of working mums after maternity leave. Some 60% of women said they changed jobs after maternity leave and 58% say they are interested in starting their own business or becoming a franchisee, with 40% of these actively pursuing ideas and plans. Research has shown that the ability to be more in control of their hours – not necessarily to work fewer hours – is a key driver for those women who want to start businesses after having children.

Some 64% are interested in retraining. A previous’s survey showed a need for more flexible working and a desire to do something they considered more meaningful were behind many mums’ interest in retraining.

The survey also showed:
– job shares are still not used by many employers. Only 4% of women said they were in a job share, despite 55% wanting to work part time
– 57% of working mums struggle with holiday and after school childcare
– 46% use grandparents to reduce childcare costs
– 38% pay no childcare costs as they use family/friends to cover pick-ups or work school-friendly hours.

Under flexible working legislation employers have a duty to deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’. also has concerns about the weakness of the legislation around the right of appeal and clearly the survey bears out those concerns since most who had their request rejected while on maternity leave did not appeal, even though 68% felt the reasons given for the rejection was not justified. would like to see more efforts made both to promote the case for flexible working more widely and to educate women about their rights with regard to the legislation. They would also like policymakers to look at the case for reinstating a statutory right of appeal if a request is turned down as this would send an important message to employers that they must give serious consideration to requests and not just dismiss them out of hand.

It’s really not good enough in 2016 is it.  And might I suggest that in this Anti Bullying Week, some employers dogged determination to discriminate against those with kids (including dads, many of whom face similar issues), is nothing less than bullying.

New Mothers Need More Than Just Employment Protection

Women don’t just need employment protection whilst on maternity leave, they also need support to transition back into work, according to diversity consultancy, The Clear Company.

Time to return to work?

In light of recent reports from The Women and Equalities Committee and calls from MPs to address the discrimination pregnant women and new mothers face at work, The Clear Company has urged businesses to consider long term support for these individuals.

The diversity consultancy has outlined that while ensuring women can return to work after maternity leave is vital, providing them with the training and support they need to transition back into work is crucial to prevent them from feeling alienated from the rest of the workplace upon their return.

Kate Headley, Development Director at The Clear Consultancy, explains:

“While the numerous initiatives to encourage more women back to work after maternity leave are positive moves to address the issue, there are additional supplements that employers must consider in order to retain these individuals long term. Yes more females need protection at work in terms of being able to return to their job, but they also need support in making this transition.

Business owners need to remember that these individuals have gone through a time of incredible change and have been away from work for a lengthy period. Not only are they likely to consider the impact of working hours on their home life, but there’s also the potential that they will hit a few bumps in the road when they start back as they learn to juggle their new personal and professional lives.

“By providing greater support for women once they are back in employment, companies will really benefit from an engaged employee who feels valued and respected and is subsequently likely to have better productivity levels and be more loyal to the brand.

That’s not to say that huge amounts of money need to be invested in schemes – simple moves such as linking them up with other mothers or new parents in the business will give them a support group to turn to for advice.

If you still need convincing of the benefits of encouraging more women into work, a recent report from The Anita Borg Institute (The case for investing in women) found that Fortune 500 companies with at least three female directors saw an increase in return on invested capital by at least 66%, return on sales by 42%, and return on equity by at least 53%.”

I left work in 2007 to have Caitlin and have since worked from home but I can understand how daunting it is to return to full time employment, even more so after a lengthier gap than statutory maternity leave. Not only would you have to renew working relationships and make new contacts, but all your previous skills (particularly IT) will need to be refreshed.

Many returners suffer a huge crisis of confidence at returning, coupled with the guilt and sadness of leaving their children, even if it is for a few hours a day. And well-paid part time jobs, particularly in my previous sector, Legal Services, are few and far between, which is a huge consideration when thinking about childcare costs.

I know of many women whose salary is almost entirely swallowed up by childcare costs but they continue working for the social aspect and because they need to contribute and maintain their professional qualifications.

I think a lot more could be done to ease a new mum’s -or a stay-at-home parent’s – return to work but, in my view, childcare is the biggest issue which needs to be addressed before we even think about continuing our careers.