Could a five hour work day put an end to the 'motherhood wage gap'?

21 May 2018

This article was originally published by Essential Kids, on 21 May 2018 by Bianca Wordley.

Flexible working conditions help reduce the "motherhood wage gap" between working women who don't have children and those who do.

University of British Colombia (UBC) researchers examined the impact flexible work arrangements had on women's wages using data from 20,879 women, of which 58 per cent were mothers.

Overall, regardless of qualifications, the "motherhood wage gap" reduced by 68 per cent when mothers worked flexible hours and by 58 per cent when they had the option to work from home.

What was most interesting was when they took educational qualifications into account. They found that flexible working conditions most benefited mums with postgraduate degrees.

For those mums who worked in jobs without flexible hours, they earned seven per cent less than childless women. While university educated mothers working flexible hours, earned 12 per cent more than their childless peers, also working flexible hours.

Associate professor at UBC's department of sociology, and the study's lead author, Sylvia Fuller said by offering fewer barriers to employment, firms were more inclined to hire mothers.

"Our findings suggest that, when companies allow work to be organised in a flexible way, they're less worried about hiring mothers," said Professor Fuller.

"Not only does flexibility make it easier for mothers to do well in their jobs, but it also alleviates concern from the employer that they'll be able to."

The study supports initiatives by companies to change the way they structure working conditions.

Take for example, Tasmanian accounting firm Collins MBA. It introduced a five-hour working day (with full pay) last year as a trial and now it's the norm. Staff work from 9am to 2pm each day, giving parents, in particular, greater flexibility and encouraging more women to re-enter the workforce, after having kids.

Professor Julie Cogin, Academic Dean and Head of School at The University of Queensland Business School said offering flexible work conditions enlarges a firms' access to talent.

"A firm will be more attractive to men and women of all ages because employees have interests outside work and people need to adjust the time they spend doing paid and unpaid work at various stages of their lives," she said.

"In my opinion, it adds a competitive edge to a recruitment strategy."

However, she warned that simply introducing flexibility alone was not enough, particularly for working mothers.

"The problem is that while flexible work conditions can help people manage multiple work and personal responsibilities, the availability of initiatives alone does not address fundamental aspects of a company or parts of it, which can inhibit women from successfully balancing career and family," Professor Cogin said.

Read the article here.