How can South African businesses get professional women back into the workforce after maternity?
By introducing greater flexibility, near-site crèche facilities, increased use of video-conferencing technology and more job sharing, say South African respondents in latest Regus survey interviewing over 26 000 business people from more than 90 countries.
Given that authorities agree that higher participation of women in the workforce is vital to sustaining and driving growth, the tide of professional women still finding that the burden of child care forces them out of employment after maternity needs urgently to be stemmed.
Not only are returning mothers key to economic development, but at a business-by-business level, respondents reported that hiring returning mothers helps improve productivity, possibly by lowering training and hiring costs.
This result confirms previous Regus research revealing that 56% of businesses globally value part-time returning mothers because they offer skills and experience which are difficult to find in the current market and 72% believe that companies that ignore part-time returning mothers are missing out on a significant and valuable part of the employment pool.
Interestingly, more vacation days were the least popular measure selected by respondents as critical to help women get back to work after maternity, highlighting that radical changes to work habits are required rather than additional days of rest.
South African workers report that critical measures to encourage women back to work after maternity are:
* Option to work closer to home (97%);
* Flexible working hours (95%);
* Near-site crèche facilities (90%)
* The option to choose video-conferencing over travel at least some of the time (87%); and
* Job sharing (66%).
Only 52% of respondents believe more vacation days are the solution to getting more working mothers back into employment. Yet 61% think that hiring returning mothers can improve productivity.
Kirsten Morgendaal, area director for Regus, comments: “There is a strong case for the greater inclusion of returning mothers in the workforce: increased GDP, sustained growth, bridging the skills gap and fighting poverty are just some of the benefits.
“Even on a business level the benefits of re-integrating women after maternity are plenty: access to skilled and trained workers, less staff turnover and even increased productivity as this survey reveals.
“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. In particular, South African women spend 180 hours on unpaid work such as child care compared to men who only spend 80 minutes on these tasks.
“But this latest survey reveals that workers overwhelmingly identify greater flexibility in terms of working hours and location as the solution to get more women back on board after maternity.
“As working habits globally evolve in favour of greater flexibility, this research suggests that changes in working practices are particularly urgently required for returning mothers whose contribution to the business and the economy is otherwise hampered.”