Keeping Mum

Dublin, 08 March 2013 (INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY) – A new report shows that 65% of Irish employers believe working mothers boost their company’s productivity, compared to only one in two employers in the UK. The overwhelming majority of Irish firms also recognise that flexibility in location is just as vital as flexi-time for attracting mothers back to the workforce. Yet many companies are not practising what they preach, with inflexibility in workplace attitudes and practices holding professional women back.

These are the key findings of a global report commissioned by Regus, the global workplace provider, which has business centres in Dublin and Cork.

Other popular measures amongst Irish employers to encourage mothers back to work emerged in the research as using video communications instead of travelling at least some of the time (cited by 84% of employers), near-site crèche facilities (82%) and job sharing (71%). More holiday was the least popular measure selected by respondents (50%), highlighting that more radical changes to workplace practices are required.

Recent research from Regus pointed to the persistence of presenteeism in Irish company culture. Only just over half of senior managers (52%) is incentivised to create a flexible workforce, and nearly three quarters of managers are likely to think that staff arriving early and leaving late is hard-working (74%.)

The new study suggests that the twentieth-century legacy of having to be ‘seen’ at your desk day in, day out is particularly detrimental to women’s career paths and their contribution to the economy. 86% of workers testify that flexible working is more family friendly.

Celia Donne, Global Operations Director at Regus and a mother herself, comments: “The benefits of higher participation of women in the workforce are widely recognised, from increased GDP,[1] sustained economic growth and bridging the skills gap. The cost of childcare in Ireland is huge - on average 29% of net household income, the third highest of all OECD economies after the UK and Switzerland.[2]

“Yet the workforce continues to lose able and trained workers with key skills and qualifications as women find the burden of childcare of cannot be reconciled with working life.

“It is interesting that flexibility in location emerges as almost equal in importance to flexi-hours to support working mothers. We see an increasing number of firms using our business centres to give mothers the option of working closer to home, for instance. The evolution in the workplace towards a more flexible way of working – both in terms of attitude and physical space - will have a hugely positive impact on women’s employment opportunities.”

[1] The White House Council on Women and Girls, Keeping America’s women moving forward, April 2012; World Economic Forum, 2011; ESCAP, 2007; Goldman-Sachs Economic Research, Weekly comment: Productivity, Much ado about nothing, 26 August 2011