Small Businesses – leading the way to a family-friendly future.
At a time when many women continue to face the dilemma ‘Family or career?’, Slater & Gordon commissioned OnePoll to carry out some timely research earlier this year by interviewing 1000 new mothers about their return to work. The results are interesting but, sadly, they are also hugely predictable, with almost a third of those interviewed feeling penalised for their natural and legitimate ‘predicament’, and over half facing changing attitudes in the workplace after their pregnancies became known. So much progress in equality, yet we fail at the most basic level.
The good news, which does come as something of a surprise, is that small businesses could be leading the way in family-friendly employment, according to a story in the Guardian Small Business Network this morning. Take a bow, small-business owners; you’re daring to go where much of the corporate world will not. Despite the legislation in place, which affords every expectant mother the right to maternity leave, the problems arise after the fact in far more subtle ways. Career opportunities and advancement can become restricted, disparity in pay rates begins to creep in, and the fundamental responsibilities of childcare conflict with the regimented structure of the workplace. For some, the issues are not so subtle, with 1 in 7 losing their job and many women facing demotion, replacement and reduction in hours.
Legislation in place requires all employers to be given at least 15 weeks’ notice of an employees due date, which offers a greater window for forward planning than unforeseen absences and sickness. Despite the ability of most employers to accommodate these legal requirements, David Evans, of law firm Cripps Harries Hall, voices concern over the continued problems faced by employees upon their return to work, and this is where small businesses are getting it right.
Perhaps it is due to the close-knit relationships in small firms, committed to a common goal that is more achievable by sticking together and supporting one another. With many small businesses operating as family enterprises, the importance of family is the very crux of their business. Corporations are often more removed from their individual employees; relationships are less personal. On the other hand, small businesses are often more in touch with their employees and relationships are based on a greater degree of mutual respect, commitment and loyalty. A business need not suffer from an employee’s absence if the maternity leave is managed properly. Rapid Formations, a leading company formation service provider believes this can be achieved by maintaining open and honest communication, keeping an open mind to the idea of flexible working and, ultimately, forward planning wherever possible.
Taking the advocacy of small businesses one step further, many women who faced adversity in the workplace as a result of motherhood have ventured into self-employment. This can offer a welcomed alternative, allowing women to create a bespoke family-friendly workplace of their own. With a wealth of start-up grants now available, there is flexibility of self-employment.