• 7 March 2024

A Working Mother’s Reflection on International Women’s Day

by Macks Solicitors

In honour of International Women’s Day, we’ve invited Amy Sadler, one of our Employment Solicitors, to share her journey of returning to work after maternity leave. Amy’s narrative offers valuable insights into the evolving role of women in the workplace, while also exploring recent legislative changes that are reshaping the concept of work-life balance.

This year’s International Women’s Day feels very different for me. It is my first as a working mother balancing all that brings; sleepless nights, endless lists, the worry, the joy at adult conversation, the guilt, the sadness of those first nursery drop offs. In all honesty, there are a lot of emotions and too many to mention here without it becoming a ‘dear diary’ moment.

We, as women, do still tend to carry the responsibility for the majority of the childcare and burden of running a household. This isn’t to say that men don’t share the struggle but from my experience professionally and personally it is the woman returning on reduced hours, managing the school rota, and remembering the P.E. kits.

With childcare commitments and the basic struggles of life with kids, being a working mum can be difficult especially when restrained by working in an office or set 9-5 hours. Flexible working is the dream and thankfully from April this year, all employees will have a day one right to request flexible working. Previously employees had to have worked a minimum of 26 weeks to make such a request. This welcome change will better accommodate mothers, those with caring responsibilities and those with disabilities. It is an unfortunate fact that businesses are still missing out on a whole host of excellent employees because of the rigid and antiquated notion of 9-5 working. I hope this new change in the law will help to facilitate a change in attitude to flexible working.

In addition to the day one right, further changes to the right to request flexible working have been proposed in the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 and are likely to come into effect later in 2024. These include:

  • Permission to bring two flexible working requests in a 12-month period. This had previously been one.
  • Decisions from employers are now to be received within two months, previously three.
  • An employee will no longer have to explain the effect, if any, the change they are requesting will have on the employer and how this could be dealt with.
  • An employer will have to consult with the employee before rejecting a flexible working request.

These adjustments will hopefully lead to more flexible working in the workplace and a higher retention of staff who are unable to conform to the typical 9-5 structure.

Looking to the year ahead on this International Women’s Day, I feel optimistic that we will see positive strides in flexible working across all sectors and I hope we can keep making positive strides in furthering employment rights for all employees.

Learn more about your flexible working rights.

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