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One-quarter of Irish women change jobs after maternity leave, survey says

11 Mar 2020

Research from Robert Walters suggests that employers and mothers in Ireland are at odds about the benefits that should be offered following a career break.

New research published by recruitment consultancy Robert Walters suggests that one-quarter of women in Ireland do not return to the same employer after maternity leave because of “outdated working practices”.

According to the research – which surveyed 4,500 working mothers in Ireland – this is mainly because women feel “disadvantaged” when returning from a career break such as maternity leave. For that reason, one in four working mothers said they did not return to the same employer after maternity leave, and 58pc of those moved into a “family-friendly” industry.

Louise Campbell, managing director of Robert Walters Ireland, said that Ireland has one of the lowest participation rates of working mothers in Europe.

“Whilst it may be the case that stay-at-home parenting is a welcome facet of Irish society, we need to move closer towards this being a personal choice rather than various external factors – such as high childcare costs, inflexible working practices and lack of support – stopping women returning to work after a career break,” she added.

Gaps in understanding

The study also highlighted some of the gaps between what returning workers want and what their employers provide. For example, 84pc of mothers said they want the option to work from home, which not all employers offer.

Other desired benefits that were cited include subsidised healthcare, mentorship, time to exercise, job-sharing and on-site childcare.

Suzanne Feeney, director of Robert Walters, outlined the negative impacts that these discrepancies could have for employers “struggling to retain staff who take career breaks”.

“With three-quarters of women highlighting that maintaining social relationships with colleagues is helpful in their return, companies should look to introduce simple initiatives such as office visits, email newsletters and invitations to team and work events to help bridge this gap of isolation that working mums feel whilst they are on maternity leave,” Feeney said.

New experiences gained during maternity leave

Robert Walters added that companies that are unable to hold onto women staff members after maternity leave for these reasons are also missing out on the experience these women have gained during their career breaks.

As many as one-quarter of those surveyed pursued education and upskilled during their break, while others volunteered for charities, started their own business, worked in another field or freelanced.

Campbell said: “Employers that understand what women in this situation are looking for are positioned to attract the best talent.

“Employers looking to recruit women who have taken a career break should be aware of the valuable skills these professionals may have developed during their time away from the workplace. Experience in other areas means that they can offer unique perspectives when they return to their careers.”

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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