· Features

A shortage of part-time work and lack of flexibility bars women from the workplace

Last week The Women and Work Commission unveiled a set of 43 recommendations for the Government on how best to address the gender pay gap and other issues affecting women's employment.

One of the recommendations highlighted how a lack of flexible jobs is currently alienating women with children from the jobs market.
UK businesses have a real problem of losing talent once women choose to start a family. Many women want to get back to work after having children but need some flexibility built into a job in order to allow time for some caring duties - picking children up from school two days a week, job sharing, working for just 20 hours a week and so on. As the commission reported, a lack of part-time jobs is effectively barring these women from the workplace.
And the numbers are vast. There are a hidden half million women in the UK who want to work, have the skills to do so and an incredible bank of experience, but simply can't find work that will fit with family life.
Though the recession is in full flow, a growing number of organisations are now adapting their business practices with regard to recruitment and retention, and garnering the potential for growth that lies in the part-time workforce.

A small but increasing number of employers see hiring women returners as a cost-effective way of gaining experience, reliability and total commitment. Brent Thomas, is a director of PrimeTimers, a London-based social enterprise that handpicks experienced professionals from the private sector to cross over to the non profit-making sector where they work as project managers, consultants, interim managers, mentors and trustees.

Thomas says: "I believe you can unlock a tremendous amount of talent - in both the corporate and third sector worlds - by hiring women returners on a flexible basis. You gain talent and experience and the women gain the work-life balance they need, without having to downgrade on their previous experience. It's a win-win situation."
Brent recently hired two women from Women Like Us for a job share in the organisation. One of them, Jo Simpson, 36, a project manager, has a child under the age of 18 months. She says: "I don't think I would have returned to work if it wasn't for this job. I am at home for four days a week and work for three - it's the right balance for me and I feel I'm getting the best of both worlds, rather than feeling frantic in both. I work Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and so come into the office in the latter part of the week feeling really fresh, committed and ready to get cracking."

The benefits of hiring part-timers are easy to understand. How to go about doing it is not so clear. But there is a wealth of opportunity out there. If I could leave you with one thought it would be this - think part-time when you create any new role. By halving your hours, you could reap double the rewards.

Karen Mattison is founder of Women Like Us