High childcare costs preventing mothers staying in workforce
Published 03/09/2015 | 02:30
Almost half of mothers say the high cost of childcare has prevented them returning to work after the birth of a child.
Most mothers want the Government to introduce income tax relief in the next Budget to help them defray the cost of childcare.
And huge numbers of working women have considered delaying having children because of poor maternity benefits, according to a survey of 1,000 mothers by MummyPages.ie online forum for mums and RecruitIreland.
Workplaces are not mother-friendly, according to the survey.
The research indicates that flexible work hours and cheaper childcare would help mums get back into the labour force after having a child.
Nine out of 10 women admitted to searching for a new role to get better benefits when planning their family.
And 43pc of women considered delaying their baby plans due to a lack of, or poor, maternity benefits in their workplace.
The majority of mothers said they could not live on the State maternity benefit of €230 a week, before tax.
A change in 2013 meant that this money is taxed if mothers get some pay from their employer just after a baby is born.
The change has cost new mothers up to €2,700 in tax.
Most mothers said they did not understand the changes to the taxation of maternity benefit.
A poor work-life balance for most mothers was blamed on a lack of flexibility in the workplace.
Working mothers say they would apply for a new role if it had flexible working hours and better maternity benefit.
Two thirds of those surveyed said they wanted more flexible working hours in their job, and half of those questioned said they would like part-time or shorter working weeks, while one-in-five would be happy to job-share.
Guilt is a huge issue for mothers.
Some 88pc of working mothers admitted to feeling guilty, triggered by instances such as a child being ill.
A third of those questioned said they used a childminder, a similar proportion use a crèche, while 27pc have the children looked after by a family member.
Laura Haugh of MummyPages.ie said mothers were finding it tough.
"Our mums are struggling financially on maternity leave and emotionally upon their return to work."
She said some of mothers welcome the mental stimulation and social aspects of returning to work, but this does not outweigh the huge guilt they feel having to leave their young children in childcare.
"While the decision to return to work is financially necessary for most of our mums surveyed, the cost of childcare has prevented nearly half of our mums returning to work," Ms Haugh said.
She said it was time for the Government to step-up and put proposals into concrete action. The new National Childcare Proposal is a 10-year plan, but action was needed now, she said.
Sinéad Johnson, commercial manager for employment website RecruitIreland.com, said flexible working options can all go a long way to easing the childcare and emotional stress that mums are feeling.