A lack of flexible work is costing the economy up to £62.5 billion a year in wasted mum talent

According to a report from Digital Mums, and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), almost 7 in 10 (68%) UK stay-at-home mums (SAHMs) living with children aged 18 and under would go back to work in some capacity if flexible working around childcare was an option, while over a third (37%) of working mums living with children would work additional hours.

Currently, 2.6 million mothers are out of the UK labour force, with Northern Ireland showing the highest share of non-working mums at 32%. By tapping into this current lost talent, businesses embracing flexible work could benefit from a total of 66 million hours more work a week – the equivalent of 1.76 million additional full time workers – providing the UK economy with a £62.5 billion boost to output each year.

Despite laws introduced by the Government in 2014 to allow everyone the legal right to request flexible working, 6 in 10 UK working mums (60%) still don’t have access to flexible work. Of those who do have access to flexible work, over half (55%) feel they’ve had to compromise their work skills and experience in order to find work that works around family. Only 14% of mums living with children aged 18 and under felt their skills hadn’t been – or wouldn’t have to be – compromised at all to find a flexible job around childcare.

Kathryn Tyler, co-founder and co-CEO, Digital Mums, said: “In 2016, women shouldn’t have to choose between a rewarding career and motherhood. While for some mums staying at home is a choice, our report shows that for a larger number their hands are tied because of a lack of flexible work options.  Shockingly, for those who do find flexible work, it comes at a cost – compromised skills and experience.

“In today’s highly connected world, there’s simply no need for businesses to stick to an archaic 9-5 desk policy. We need a societal shift to embrace flexible working as the ‘norm’ and not the exception. This will not only help mums find rewarding careers that fit their skills and family life; it will help businesses tap into an amazing talent pool and, ultimately, increase output for the economy.”

Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, commented: “We’re delighted that the Digital Mums’ #WorkThatWorks movement echoes our call to make flexible working the default, and we look forward to working with them to make this a reality – fast. The Women’s Equality Party have clear and comprehensive plans for flexible working to unlock the potential of millions of women and inject billions of pounds into the UK economy.”

The research was commissioned as part of an inaugural #WorkThatWorks report by social enterprise, Digital Mums, which specialises in getting mums job-ready with in demand digital skills so they can find rewarding roles that sync with family life. The report examines the impact of motherhood on female careers and assesses the potential impact that flexible working could have on female employment – and the economy – across the UK.

To view the report in full or to join Digital Mums’ #WorkThatWorks movement, visit digitalmums.com

Additional results from the report:

  • Mums from London and the South West suffer most when it comes to work that works around childcare, with only a third (33%) of working mums in the capital currently able to work on a flexible basis – the lowest number across the regions.
  • Regionally, London and the South East have the greatest levels of untapped potential. Thanks to the larger populations and higher levels of wages and productivity, flexible working options for mums could boost output across the capital by as much as £16 billion.
  • 17% of mums have been put off applying for a new job because they thought it wouldn’t offer flexible working hours. This rises to 22% in Northern Ireland.
  • Nearly 1 in 10 (9%) mums have missed out on a job they’re qualified for because of a lack of flexible working options.