It seems that it’s almost on a daily basis that I’m reminded why we set up GPS Return. I speak to parents regularly and find the same issues again and again. Whether they were bullied out of their job when they became pregnant, their request for flexible working was denied, or they are finding it hard to get back into work because they had chosen to take a break to start a family, parents find it hard to balance both their professional and personal lives and end up choosing one or the other.

But why not choose both?

At GPS Return here in the U.K., we’re parents too. My husband and I set up the business because I personally went through what so many of our candidates experience. After taking four years “off work” to have our two children, I started to think about the possibility of returning to work. I had 10 years of experience working in multinationals and had even kept myself busy by setting up a new business and doing some freelance work whilst I was raising the kiddos. Yet, it seemed that because I wanted a flexible role that wasn’t super stressful, recruiters and hiring managers didn’t want to know me.

It was during this time the thought occurred to me that if I was having these issues, then hundreds of thousands of women must be going through exactly the same thing. The solution then seemed straightforward: set up a recruitment firm that focused on getting parents back to work.

There definitely seems to have been a turning point this year when it comes to talking about flexible working. A recent survey by the New Skills Academy, a U.K. based online training portal, found that 45% of respondents want a job with flexible hours when they return to work after having children. 93% of respondents view flexible working hours as an important or very important benefit and 80% think the option to work part time is also important or very important. Many well-known companies in the U.K. are introducing ‘returnerships’ which are paid programmes which aim to re-integrate parents into a corporate environment. Some of our clients are parents who have set up their own businesses around the idea of flexible working – employing people on a freelance basis with the agreement that as long as the work is done, and done to the correct standard, then they are free to work whatever hours they choose.

Part of our job is to educate employers as to the benefits of hiring a ‘returner’. Most companies we speak to only think about hiring full-time staff, but try to show them that part time or flexitime is typically a win-win for all involved. Here are just three examples of what I mean:

  • Flexible working makes people more productive—they know that they will only be in the office from 10 until 2 and so they need to be focused to get their work done. An EY study found that mums working part-time are 22% more productive than their full-time colleagues.
  • Having a flexible working policy both helps attract and retain the best talent (93% of people view flexible working hours as either important or very important!)
  • Introducing flexible working can cut staffing costs and overheads. If a hiring manager has a limited budget, it’s possible to hire high calibre person to join a company on a 3-day-a-week basis, meaning you’ll get a more experienced person, who will get more done in 3 days than a less experienced person will get done in 5, for the same salary. A no-brainer right?

In a PwC study, 76% of women in the U.K. who are currently on a career break want to return to work—that’s 427,000 professionals! The downside is that 93% of women say it’s hard to combine a successful career with caring responsibilities. However, if we get this right, PwC estimates that the additional economic output of these women returning to work will be £1.7 BILLION!

But perhaps this finding is one that resonated with me personally: “Recruiters and employers need to reassess how they evaluate a candidate’s potential and work to address the negative bias towards CV gaps.” YES! I want to shout from the rooftops—I want to stop what happened to me happening to my daughter (and perhaps even my son). After all, our mission at GPS Return is to make returning to work after a career break a normal, accepted, and expected step in every parent’s career.

photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com