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Mums is the word, and work is the goal

The federal government can do all it wants to encourage mothers to return to work, including making childcare more affordable, but unless employers ”come to the party” it will be fruitless, recruitment and workplace diversity experts warn.

”There are currently not enough workplaces offering flexible roles for working mothers and where those roles are offered there is often a lack of understanding about how those roles are going to work,” says recruitment consultant Rachel Perkins, who last week launched JustMums Recruitment – an agency that specialises in finding jobs for working mothers and mothers returning to work.

She says that while her job will primarily be to ”connect mothers with family-friendly and flexible employment opportunities” she will also work to ensure employers and candidates have the same expectations.

”Time and again I hear stories of women returning to part-time work but being expected to jam five days’ work into three or four … or there is a lack of flexibility when it comes to working around childcare arrangements … it simply does not work,” says the mother of two.

The Diversity Council of Australia’s chief executive Nareen Young says that while availability and affordability of childcare is a barrier for mothers returning to work, a lack of flexible roles is also a major obstacle.

”Employers have to come to the party and start offering more flexible roles if we are ever going to see a significant increase in mothers returning to work.”

Her comments come just days after Prime Minister Julia Gillard called an emergency childcare summit to discuss funding reforms to make childcare more affordable.

The following day the Grattan Institute released a paper arguing that increasing female participation in the workforce could boost Australia’s economy by $25 billion.

Only 67 per cent of women aged 15 to 64 are at present in paid work compared with 78 per cent of men, which is ”substantially lower” than in many other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, the report said.

Mother of three Mary Hoath, who hasn’t worked since the birth of her eldest son four years ago, has enlisted JustMums Recruitment to help her return to part-time work, “because they are mums themselves and understand what it’s like to juggle work and motherhood”.

Reinvent Your Career would like to the Sydney Morning Herald where this article first appeared.

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