· Features

Can working mums revolutionise business?

Often, when I sing the praises of working mums I get the same response: how can working mums revolutionise my business?

Don't they just keep on taking time off to spend time with their children? I don't want to employ someone who may be unreliable and can't work normal office hours.

In the past there has been a stigma attached to the mum wanting to return to work - she was often viewed as only partially productive and given to long stints of absence due to sick children or family commitments. Well, I believe it's time for a rethink.

Times have changed and there are many high level and skilled women, who have had their children and are looking to resume their careers. They are enthusiastic about returning to work and are clearly comfortable with, and skilled at, balancing parental duties with job responsibilities.

Top class mums can slot back into a high level career and become a real asset to your business, bringing a huge amount of skills back into the workplace not only from their previous careers but also with the maturity, sense of responsibility and experience parenthood brings. More than anyone, Mums know the best laid plans can often go awry and as a result are crystal clear about everyday priorities and relentlessly follow through tasks. Both attributes are key to success in business; identifying the mission and the priority. In managerial positions mothers offer a great viewpoint, after all some adults can behave like children.

But why do employers shy away from employing working mums? Why are they not welcomed back into the work force with open arms? Admittedly, some jobs just may not be right for a mum who needs regular, social hours so she can manage both work and home life. Jobs centered around film and TV demand long and anti social hours and it's not always possible to know in advance what your working day will consist of. Production and buying involve trips abroad which can be difficult to work around if you need to juggle work and childcare.

However, are employers burying their heads in the sand, not wanting to find a solution so they can bring highly skilled workers back into their company. Do alarm bells start ring when the subject of 'part time' or job share' is broached. Does it equate to organisational difficulties and do HR departments start calculating the fixed costs per worker, e.g. recruitment and training, concluding it's too expensive and too difficult to manage? Companies may worry that offering a little bit of flexibility will create an idle workforce. Or accommodating one working mum will lead to other requests, ultimately breaking down the HR procedures they have worked hard to build. However, job sharing is one flexibility programme which is easy to implement logistically and provides companies with more than one single employee who can contribute.

Job sharing eases the strain of balancing work and family responsibilities so each job share partner can devote greater energy and focus when she is on the job. Job coverage will be continuous during holidays, sickness and other absences which are especially valuable for increasing productivity. Employers shouldn't over look the fact, working mums are grateful to be given a skilled, part time opportunity doing something they enjoy. This results in a loyal, dedicated and extremely able worker who really wants the job and is prepared to work hard to make it a success.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show unemployment among women has increased by 82,000 over the past year. The total number of unemployed women in Britain has reached 1.2 million, a figure which has not been matched for two years. Surely this should be a wake up call, former stay-at-home mothers are struggling to find decent work because the opportunities just aren't there for them.

It is not only time for employers to actively hire working mums but promote and pay them according to their ability and not their attitudes towards them. Mums need to do their bit too. Their need to assess their true market value and negotiate for it when returning to work. Having time off to raise a family doesn't make them incapable of doing the same job they left. In fact, with a whole new set of skills to offer they can boost their career and the organisation they work for.

Sally Overhead is the founder of The Zebra Group, (2005) a payroll company with a turnover of £17.142 million and a workforce comprised of 85% working mums. She has recently launched Mojomums which offers mums a solution to re-igniting their careers successfully.