More than 90% of maternity returners say they get no support at work when they go back, reveals MMB survey

Lack of support for maternity returners among UK businesses has been uncovered in a new survey of professional, mainly management-level women.

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Abbie and Rachel Reeves MP
Download a PDF of the Survey results here.

More than four fifths of pregnant women begin their maternity leave unhappy and lacking in confidence about work – and over a third feel so isolated when they return that they want to hand their notice in.

MMB, the working parents’ website, surveyed more than 1,000 mothers, 72% of whom were in jobs at management level or above.

In response to its findings, MMB has launched a campaign, #LeaveLoudly and #ReturnLouder. Backed by the Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, it will empower women to call for better treatment and offer a maternity returners’ programme for businesses.


Key statistics are:

  • Only 18% of maternity returners felt happy and confident about work – having seen the way previous maternity returners had been dealt with by their employer
  • 37% felt so unsupported and isolated on their return that they wanted to leave
  • Just 17% felt they received good communication and support through the maternity process
  • 90% said no returner support was offered though returner programmes or one to one coaching – yet 92% said a dedicated returner programme could have been beneficial

60% were worried about their requests for flexible working being rejected and 68% had concerns about the cost of childcare when going back to work.

Abbie Coleman, founder of MMB, said: “Our survey shows it’s time for action, not just talk. #LeaveLoudly is about senior managers doing just that, to help normalise flexible working and change working culture to focus on production, not presenteeism.

“Along the same principle is #ReturnLouder. We want mums returning from maternity leave, or time out raising children, to let everyone know that there is this huge talent pool of parents who often get overlooked.”  

The Labour MP for Leeds West, Rachel Reeves, herself a working mother, is supporting the campaign, alongside business leaders and academics.

She said: “The challenges facing parents returning to work after the birth of a child are immense.  Many have to juggle caring responsibilities and running a home with fitting back into the workplace.

“It is important that employers are sympathetic to those challenges and do far more to help working parents with flexible hours, support with childcare where possible and other measures.  Working parents are a huge asset to business and they should be nurtured and supported so they can play their part in growing the economy.”

The MMB Returner programme, involving coaching, mentoring and access to a supportive network, was developed by Abbie Coleman and Beckie Taylor, two mothers who are passionate about changing working culture to benefit future parents – and helping companies to retain talented employees.

Abbie says: “To this end we have developed MMB Returner. It is one of the first programmes of its type.  We want to change the way the North engages its working mother talent and become the most desirable place to live and work. We need employers to join with us in engaging the maternity leaver and returner market.”

Dr Jo Ingold, Associate Professor at Leeds University Business School said: “The low numbers of women involved in a returners programme is consistent with other studies . This suggests the need to open it up to include a wider group of returners in order to facilitate businesses to address the huge loss of female talent post-maternity leave.”

Dr Jana Javornik, Associate Professor at Leeds University Business School, added: “Motherhood is a game changer for most women, requiring a significant reorganisation of their lives. While a  returners programme may help women transition back into the workforce, this programme needs to be combined with  affordable high-quality childcare, flexible working and supportive workplaces.”

Helen Gration, York business owner and trustee of National Day Nurseries Association, said: “There is a huge reservoir of talent that is wasted by not engaging and supporting women on maternity leave and upon return.

“They are efficient, highly skilled, intelligent and even more motivated than before because they want the best for their family. It’s nonsense that a business wouldn’t adapt in order to bring back that expertise to help it progress.”

Leeds Law Society, which supports, promotes and represents solicitors, said:  "While the number of women 'at the top' is improving, there is still a long way to go and law firms are recognising that they are losing a large number of women from private practice as these women start to become more senior.

“From speaking to our members, the headline issues are that men need to have a seat at the table during these types of conversations, flexible working needs to be viewed as the norm and not a lesser role to rid the issue of presenteeism, and there is a lack of women role models who can provide coaching/mentoring to support junior women as they progress. As such, we are not surprised to see these results from MMB's survey of women returning to work after maternity.

“While some law firms are better than others, there still does not seem to be much promotion of the support that may be available to women returners. Leeds Law Society celebrate organisations like MMB who can offer this kind of support and coaching, we would only ask that the employers shout louder about these initiatives and incorporate them into their own internal policies."

MMB Returner

The MMB Returner programme supports businesses by providing bespoke programmes for short and long-term returners. The aim is for returners have a successful transition back into their careers through personal and professional development, including workshops, executive coaching, mentoring and access to a network of events. Themes include self care, wellbeing, resilience, unlocking potential and overcoming challenges.

Abbie Coleman
With over 16 years in recruitment, Abbie is well placed to know the discussions behind the recruitment doors. After having her young son she decided to launch MMB, with the vision to change the future for working mothers and allow all the chance to achieve career ambitions. 

MMB has become the leading northern working mother website, championing the working mother to reach all her career ambitions alongside supporting businesses engage these employees.

Its goal is to ensure the north is the key business market for the best talent attraction and retention on the market, and to support businesses with commercial practical advice on flexible working, parent networks and events for mid to senior female networks.

Beckie Taylor
Beckie is a people professional with extensive experience of working with business leaders to scale up through people. Focusing on talent management, team effectiveness, continuous performance development, building a diverse workforce, and flexible working. She is also an Executive Coach (WABA and RCC accredited) providing real impact and ROI for people on a group and 1-2-1 level.
  
Previously, Beckie has acted as a Global HR Leader, spearheading global growth strategies for international tech companies. These roles focussed on defining culture / core values, building KPI frameworks, continuous development, employee engagement, designing SaaS based HR metrics, and creating people strategies to enhance growth.

As part of her work, Beckie is also an Ambassador for Tech and Women in Leadership, and the Co-founder of Women in Technology Northern Chapter. In 2017, she launched Tech Returners. These courses are designed to break down the barriers for people returning to, or starting out in tech.

This work has seen the project shortlisted in the Northern Power Women awards for Innovation for its practical guidance, and personal development coaching. Also, recently launching a Tech Future Female Leaders programme which aims to focus on developing the next future role models in tech.

She has also been shortlisted in the Women in IT Awards 2017 Advocate of the Year and Voted on of the Top 30 women in tech for Greater Manchester.