A BBC Radio 4 programme ‘You and Yours’ recently put UK childcare costs under the spotlight once again. Many parents welcomed the introduction of 30-hours’ free childcare for their three and four-year-olds – a rise from the previous 15 hours. But, as this feature showed, these offerings never come without complications. On one hand nurseries have complained that they cannot afford to cover their costs under new funding levels, while on the other, parents of younger children worry that additional costs will be passed onto them through higher fees.

For all parents, it’s another reminder of the difficult juggle faced in returning to work after having children. For many (typically mothers) the rise of flexible and part-time work has been a God-send allowing some room for manoeuvre to balance work and childcare. But as this programme showed, it remains for many a difficult financial balance: returning to work is critical to maintain the family income but pointless if wiped out by childcare costs.

Some parents return to work knowing that any income will be flatlined by nursery fees. They are effectively working for nothing. But they do so for the long-term payback of remaining in work and progressing their careers as best they can through these early years.

Flexible commitment 

 

But this is a fact that can still be lost on some employers and colleagues who do not face the childcare juggle. While it's becoming less common, there can still be an inability to see how a job can be done differently as well as a view that part-time employees are ‘less committed’ than their full-time counterparts. The need to strictly leave the office on time to collect a child from nursery can still be frowned upon by those who can stay after hours.

We know, however, that if women have an employer that understands and supports their return to work with decently paid, flexible contracts, mothers will also likely offer loyalty and a keen motivation to get the job done well in the time given. They have a lot to lose if they don’t.

Forward thinking firms

 

That is why at Totum we are delighted to be working with more law firms that understand the benefits of retaining female talent after having children. In recent years, many firms have launched programmes to support mothers returning to work after maternity leave. Meanwhile, and perhaps more importantly, we are seeing more flexible and part-time business services roles come into law. Current opportunities we are working on at Totum include a three-day job share as a BD and Marketing Project Manager, plus part-time COO and Finance Director roles. Flexible options at these most senior levels of law are a sign of changing culture – a belief that things can indeed be done differently by both men and women. It also means that those seeking part-time roles have more choice than ever - you no longer have to stick with the one role that has given you flexibility for fear there are no others out there. 

This is great news for all parents and those with caring (or other) responsibilities outside of work, but particularly mums who still typically face the childcare juggle. Nursery costs are never going to go away – the financial and logistical balancing act goes on. But with more employers – including law firms – offering a way for parents to manage childcare alongside interesting and career-progressing work, the struggle may become easier. And the bonus is that employers get to retain the talent that promotes business growth. A win-win in our book.

If you would like to know more about Totum’s flexible and full-time roles in the legal sector, please contact [email protected]

This piece was first published by Women in the City. Click here to see the article.

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