It seems that today, the path to re-employment for women returning to the workforce after maternity leave is easier than it has been in the past. Of critical importance are the current skills shortage and low unemployment levels. The labour tight market conditions mean that many employers are actively encouraging and seeking out women who are looking to work again after taking time out to start families.
Employers are being more flexible than ever, allocating part time and job sharing positions to posts once held by full timers.
In fact, ABS statistics* show that the proportion of women with children under 15 years old who are employed has increased from 49% in 1987 to 57% in 2004, with the largest growth in part-time employment (1979-2004).
However, according to Sinead Hourigan of global recruitment specialist, Robert Walters, being flexible is one thing; having family-friendly workplace policies is another.
"Organisations are eager to retain their best and brightest so policies such as onsite child care facilities and extended paid maternity leave are becoming the norm in some sectors. There has certainly been a marked shift in company attitudes to hiring women. "
"The acceptance of mothers and a focus on families is no longer just a token gesture by employers. Companies are now offering real and workable solutions to women as the skills shortage continues to reign supreme," said Sinead.
While employment conditions appear to be somewhat in favour of the working mum, an important onus is on women to do their research and appropriately prepare themselves, in order to secure a win-win situation between themselves and their employer.
Sinead Hourigan offers women returning to work a number of tips, such as:
1. Take gradual steps when returning to work - find part-time or reduced-hours employment if possible, this will allow you to maintain your work-life balance as well as gradually strengthen your skills if you have been absent for a number of years
2. Get advice from a recruiter on preparing your resume
3. Speak to a recruiter about flexible roles and what you might reasonably expect from employers
4. Stay engaged with the business community and be aware of any changes to workplace legislation
5. When on leave, maintain good relationships with employers and colleagues
6. Maintain professional memberships to keep abreast of industry developments
7. Seek out family friendly workplaces and understand well a company's policies before applying for the position
8. Complete a computer refresher course
* Australian Social Trends, 2006