Inflexible UK employers see working mothers lose £1.3 trillion in earnings annually

10 January 2018

Britain’s working mothers are presently losing out on £1.3 trillion in earnings as a result of inflexible business culture. More than half the mothers in the UK responding to a recent survey revealed that they had left or changed jobs due to family commitments – with the majority of these jobs no longer putting their educational background to use, suggesting a huge waste of talent on top of the loss of income.

A number of consulting industry studies have outlined the major business benefits of accommodating the needs of parents within their workforce. One example, of paid family leave, was shown to improve the attractiveness of a firm to prospective employees, with a Deloitte study highlighting that paid family leave was a factor in the choice of employer for 77% of workers. Employees offered paid family leave were also found to have higher morale, being more engaged and productive.

However, according to a new study, millions of highly skilled British working mothers are currently being forced to accept jobs way below their qualifications and training – and earn far less than men over the course of their working lives – due to the inflexibility of recruiters over family matters. The Feel survey asked nearly 1,800 mothers what their ideal working scenario would be. As the UK continues to struggle with stagnant labour productivity, which continues to inhibit growth of the British economy, analysis of responses, along with Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures, show that a record number of mothers are returning to the workplace after having children, but are having to take on roles considerably below their potential.

Inflexible UK employers see working mothers lose £1.3 trillion in earnings annually

Three quarters of the mothers surveyed confirmed that they were currently working. However, 54% had left or changed jobs because of family commitments – often wasting their previous educational achievements as a result. 75% of the women surveyed had been to university, and around one third of these said a degree qualification had in no way applied to the job they obtained since becoming mothers. Further analysis of the statistics, carried out by London-based recruitment consulting firm Feel, shows that British business is allowing trillions of pounds of value in female talent and expertise to go to waste.

75% said they would like to find a job that utilised their degree qualification if it offered some kind of flexibility, reflecting how keen the respondents were to use their talents in the workplace. However, as many as 64% of those currently looking for jobs said they were willing to trade flexibility for a job that used their academic or professional experience.

The survey also asked working mothers to specify career changes they had made since having children, with some alarming responses. Answers included: stepping down from leadership positions; taking menial jobs just to get the flexibility; and taking redundancy or large chunks of time out of the workforce because employers dismissed requests for flexibility. A number of respondents said that they had side-stepped successful corporate careers just to go self-employed or freelance, while some exited the workforce all together.

Feel’s founder, Jane Johnson, believes highly qualified mothers in the UK, who are willing and able to work, are increasingly being let down, while businesses are missing out on a huge untapped resource of female talent, thanks to a lack of creativity and understanding about flexible working arrangements.

“The answers given in our survey showed some really positive examples where flexible working is truly working. It should not be beyond us in 2018 to think creatively and get these highly-qualified, talented people back into the workforce and capturing their value for the UK economy,” said Johnson, adding, “I cannot think of any other scenario where a business would accept this degree of wastage.  We have to see more businesses in 2018 rising to the challenge.”

Recently, four members of the professional services industry were listed in the Top 30 Employers for Working Families ranking, with reference to working flexibility. The UK list, compiled annually by the Working Families group, commended Deloitte, EY, Oliver Wyman and financial services firm UBS AG for their flexibility to accommodate employees with families.


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Women remain underrepresented in UK's hospitality industry leadership

12 April 2019

Female engagement at the top level of the UK hospitality industry is still lagging, with the vast majority of decision-making roles continue to be held by men. Only 7% of the industry’s FTSE 350 CEOs are women; however, the pay gap in hospitality and leisure is far better than in other industries, at a median of approximately 7%.

The hospitality, travel and leisure (HTL) sector is one of the UK’s largest employers, with 3.2 million people working in its segments. Despite a poor 2018 in terms of tightening consumer spending, the industry is still one of the top sectors in terms of economic activity, hitting £130 billion last year – besting the UK’s automotive, pharmaceutical and aeronautical sectors’ combined activities.

While the industry is one of the country’s largest employers, it still faces considerable issues around diversity at the top. New analysis from PwC has explored the matter, as well what initiatives the industry has engaged to open up its top ranks to a more diverse background.

Female representation at board level for UK companies and HTLs

According to a survey of CEOs, Chairs or HR Directors of over 100 of the most significant leisure businesses across the UK, the hospitality industry has a relatively male-dominated top level. This lags behind the FTSE 100, where companies have female board level representation at 32.2%. Meanwhile, the figure for the combined executive committee and direct reports stands at 28%. This is well above FTSE 250 levels, where female board level representation stands at 22.4% and executive committee & direct reports stand at 27.8%.

For the hospitality industry as a whole, board level representation came in at 23.6%, with FTSE 350 for the industry performing slightly better at 25.1%, while non-listed companies performed considerably worse at 18.2%. The firm notes that the figures hide that while some companies are making strides to improve equality, others are not moving forward – with the positive result reflecting more often the good work of some, while others are not taking the issue seriously in their agenda setting.

Blind spot

The study states, however, that while the overall numbers are relatively strong, the industry has a number of acute weaknesses. These include CEO numbers, with only 7% of HTL FTSE 350 companies helmed by women and 11% of non-listed companies led by female CEOs. Meanwhile, female chairs at FTSE 350 companies for the sector stand at zero. In terms of wider diversity representation, only 1 in 33 leaders at industry companies is from a BAME background.

Pay gap for HTL and hospitality

The report noted discrepancies between FTSE 100 companies and FTSE 250 in terms of improving the number of women at executive level. The majority have met the Hampton-Alexander Review target of 33% women at board level, up from around 25% in 2016. However, the remaining ~40% are not on target, and are unlikely to meet the target by 2020. A similar trend is noted when it comes to executive committee and direct reporting numbers.

Jon Terry, Diversity & Inclusion Consulting Leader at PwC, said, "To make real progress in diversity and inclusion, businesses need to elevate it onto the CEO’s agenda and align diversity & inclusion strategy to the fundamentals of the business."

Tracking progress FTSE 250 level

However, one area where hospitality travel and leisure companies are outperforming other companies in the wider UK economy, is the mean and median pay gap between men and women. PwC found that the median of the wider UK economy comes is approximately 14% – with upper quartile companies noted for a gap of low 20%, and lower quartile companies noted for differences of around 2%.

The median pay gap for HTL comes in at well below 7%, with the median close to parity. There are considerable differences, however, with hospitality at 7%, while travel comes in considerably higher, at 22%. The latter figure reflects fewer women in higher paid pilot and technical positions within the industry.