The start of the school year is a big deal for children, but it can also be a time of major transition for their parents. Many women who have taken a career break while their children were toddlers will begin to look for work again. The end of the school holidays can also be the time to launch a new venture, whether that means retraining, starting a business or moving job.
So what kind of help or support is around to ease that transition? There are several organisations offering advice and support. Working Mums has a team of experts who can give free advice on issues ranging from an initial assessment of employment rights, setting up a business or franchise and childcare to career transitions. Other organisations which offer free advice include Working Families which has a free legal helpline and the National Citizens Advice Bureau.
A New, More Flexible Role?
Working Mums‘ main focus is on advertising flexible new roles so those who need flexibility are able to progress their careers. Despite progress on flexible working, with more and more organisations realising the benefits for them and their employees, it is still a challenge getting many to openly advertise new flexible roles. That leaves it down to candidates to negotiate flexibility at interview or after. A new campaign for flexible jobs launched earlier this year. Hire Me My Way is a collaboration between different organisations who support flexible working becoming the norm rather than something that is agreed on an ad hoc basis.
Return to work?
Where there has been progress in recent years is on initiatives to help those who have taken career breaks back to work. Pioneers in this area are Women Returners which collaborate with employers to offer returner programmes, many of which are listed on our site.
Research shows that one of the main barriers to those returning to work after a career break, apart from negotiating the different ways of finding out about jobs including via social media, is confidence. It’s easy to convince yourself that a few years out of the workforce doing something very different means you are out of touch and ‘rusty’. But all the skills you had before you took your break are still there and you have often gained a few more life skills besides – the kind of soft skills such as organisation and communication as well as underestimated qualities such as maturity. Our expert Linda Whittern has written a guide to some of the big issues faced by women returning to work, from rebuilding confidence and brushing up your skills to how to present a career gap on your cv.
Work for Yourself?
The last 10 years have also been a big increase in the number of mums setting up their own businesses, becoming franchisees or working for themselves. And the implementation of Shared Parental Leave as well as moves towards greater equality in the workplace has led to a new focus on supporting dads in the workplace around areas such as flexible working and parental leave. Organisations such as the Fatherhood Institute have years of experience of working in this area.
The past decade has seen a sea change in the way we work as technology has advanced. More and more firms now view flexible working as essential. The next 10 years will bring more rapid change and we hope to support women take advantage of all that that will bring.
Mandy Garner is editor of Workingmums.co.uk. The website is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. It was set up by Gillian Nissim to provide a bridge between employees with years of experience who were looking for flexible working and employers who could see the business benefits of offering that flexibility, whether that meant part-time work, homeworking, full time with flexi hours or any other form of flexibility.