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OneThird of Mothers Forced Out of Full-Time Work
One third of mothers forced out of full-time working
A third of working mothers are quitting full-time jobs for part-time
positions or giving up work altogether, a survey reveals today, with many
women blaming inflexible employers who refuse to allow them time off to
look after their children.
The research, carried out for the BBC's Panorama programme, undermines
government initiatives which are aimed at encouraging women who have had
children to return to the workforce.
Researchers at the University of Bristol, who analysed the working
of 560 mothers, found that they all returned to work full-time after the
birth of their first child. But within two years more than a third had
up their full-time positions, with 17% switching to part-time employment
19% giving up work altogether.
The programme makers also commissioned a smaller-scale study of 73
taken from the ongoing British household panel survey, which examined the
reasons why such a high proportion of mothers are leaving full-time work.
Susan Harkness of the University of Sussex, who carried out the research,
said: "I think we tended to assume that those women who'd come back to
after childbirth stay in the labour market, so the scale of the dropout
really quite surprising.
"We found that women who returned to full-time work tended to do so when
their children were very young. We also found they worked very long
there was no reduction in hours prior to and after the birth of the
so there was no accommodation within their jobs to account for the fact
now had responsibilities for a very young child."
One of the women interviewed was Cathy Schofield, who gave up her job as
marketing director for a publishing firm in order to be able to spend more
time with her son. "I didn't think I would find myself not exactly being
hounded out of work but having my working day made so guilt-ridden that I
just couldn't bear to carry on."
The publishing company insist they were accommodating, but Ms Schofield
her boss complained when her son was ill, saying he seemed to be ill more
often than other children, and when she stayed at home to deal with an
emergency her holiday allowance was docked.
Penny Gillison, a new mother, has been trying to negotiate flexible
hours with her boss to cope with looking after her child.
"You always have this feeling that someone's saying in the background 'oh,
you're a terrible mother, how dare you work'... I have no choice at this
point in time."
While encouraging mothers back into the workplace has become a key plank
government policy, critics say much more needs to be done, including
legislation that would impose the legal right for new mothers to demand
their old job back on a part-time basis.
However, any such move would be fiercely opposed by employers. Ruth Lea,
the Institute of Directors, said: "We did a survey 18 months ago of our
members and 45% of them said that they would think twice about taking on
women of prime childbearing age because of the maternity legislation."
The programme, called Back to the Kitchen Sink, which will be broadcast at
10pm tonight on BBC1, also looks at the latest research into child
development, which appears to add weight to the controversial theory that
young children whose parents work full time may perform less well at
Professor Heather Joshi, of the Institute of Education, analysed several
aspects of the lives of 9,000 young adults who were born in 1970. The
research found there was a link between a mother's employment in the
pre-school years and their children's academic success. The differences
small but meant that girls were 10% "less likely to advance one rung of
qualifications ladder, such as the step between GCSE and A-level", while
boys were 12% less likely to do so.
The results follow the findings of the first part of the study, released
three months ago, which reported that children whose mothers worked before
they were one year old had slightly worse reading scores later on.
"There may be something in the child's early development that equips them
better to face these undoubted challenges of doing public exams,"
However researchers believe of more significance may be the quality of
childcare rather than simply the fact of having a working mother.
Monday January 24, 2000