6 months ago

How SMEs Can Do More to Support Working Mothers

Motherhood is a transformative experience, but it often comes with challenges beyond the realm of parenting. Recent research by gender equality charity the Fawcett Society reveals that childcare pressures are causing around a quarter of a million mothers with young children to leave their jobs.

Large numbers of British women find their career progression hindered, leading to what some have labelled the ‘motherhood penalty’. While more mums are working than ever before, they’re encountering obstacles that impede career growth. In this article, we delve into the reasons behind this issue and explain what SMEs can do to help improve the situation.

The Motherhood Penalty

The Fawcett Society's research highlights the challenges working mothers face in the UK. A lack of flexible working arrangements and affordable childcare, coupled with outdated attitudes towards motherhood, have created a barrier for women trying to balance career and family life.

Woman working from home with her daughterThese challenges are not only detrimental to families but also have wider implications for the UK economy, impacting productivity and widening the gender pay gap.

What Can Businesses Do to Help?

Embrace Flexible Working

SMEs can promote a culture of flexibility by offering part-time, remote and flexible working. This approach can be a great benefit to mothers who need to adjust their schedules to accommodate childcare responsibilities.

Explore Affordable Childcare Support

Businesses can explore partnerships with local childcare providers to offer discounted or on-site childcare services for their employees. This offering can alleviate the financial burden and stress associated with finding suitable childcare.

Promote Inclusivity

SMEs should foster an inclusive and supportive work environment where mothers feel valued and respected, with equal opportunities for career progression. Addressing any outdated biases or stereotypes related to motherhood is crucial.

Consider Coaching Programs

Business owners should consider establishing mentorship and coaching programs that empower working mothers to develop their skills and confidence. These programs can provide guidance on navigating challenges and achieving goals.

Introduce Family-Friendly Policies

Implementing policies such as paid parental leave, return-to-work arrangements, and support for breastfeeding mothers can be very helpful to employees. These initiatives demonstrate a commitment to accommodating the needs of working parents.

Implement Career Progression Support

Create clear pathways for career progression within the organisation, ensuring that mothers have access to opportunities for advancement. Mums should have their contributions recognised and rewarded.

Advocate for Change

SMEs can join forces with organisations like the Fawcett Society to advocate for increased Government support for affordable childcare. By showing their support for these initiatives, they can contribute to meaningful change on a broader scale.


The ‘motherhood penalty’ is a significant challenge that working mothers in the UK face, with repercussions for both individuals and the economy. SMEs can play a pivotal role in addressing this issue by implementing family-friendly policies, offering support and fostering inclusive workplace cultures.

By doing so, they can help working mothers thrive in their careers without compromising their responsibilities as parents. Businesses have a responsibility to step up and make a positive impact on the lives and careers of mothers.

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Sam White