The 'motherhood penalty': six tips on how businesses can address it in 2024

Businesses are being urged to familiarise themselves with the ‘motherhood penalty’ and introduce steps to eradicate it within their organisations in 2024.

FDM Group, a global business and tech consultancy, has issued advice to managers and business leaders to solve the motherhood penalty, which can result in lower salaries and stunted career prospects for working mothers.

The motherhood penalty refers to the systematic disadvantage experienced by working mothers. There are many contributing factors to it, such as conscious and unconscious biases towards mothers in the workplace, a lack of family-friendly policies, and interruptions to career progression.

Ultimately, these issues are contributing to the ever-growing gender pay gap and must be addressed.

Fortunately, there are steps that businesses can take to solve this issue, from implementing inclusive policies and flexible work arrangements to providing anti-bias training across their organisations.

Sheila Flavell CBE, Chief Operating Officer at FDM Group comments: “Businesses must address the 'motherhood penalty’ as soon as possible.

“This systemic bias hampers the career progression of numerous capable professionals and robs organisations of a diverse talent pool that is crucial for innovation.

“By providing flexible hours, comprehensive maternity policies, and supportive work environments to working mothers, businesses can invest in a diverse, empathetic, and resilient workforce, which, in turn, fuels creativity and steers progress.”

Six ways businesses can help to solve the motherhood penalty, according to FDM Group:

  1. Inclusive policies

Every organisation should implement inclusive employee policies. It's important to ensure that parental policies regarding maternity and paternity leave are thorough and grant ample leave duration with job security. This strategy diminishes stress employees may experience during maternity or paternity leave, while also demonstrating a strong commitment, as an organisation, to acknowledging the diverse needs of your workforce.

  1. Flexible work arrangements

The accommodation of remote working isn't feasible for all businesses. Nevertheless, if suitable for your organisation, adopting flexible working practices can be advantageous for new mothers. Offering flexibility caters to the requirements of working parents, empowering them to harmoniously juggle their professional duties and caregiving responsibilities.

  1. Mentorship programmes

Initiate mentoring schemes to offer direction and assistance to staff members, particularly women and mothers, to aid them in traversing their career paths – particularly after childbirth or maternity leave. Mentors can provide wisdom, recount personal experiences, assist mentees in surmounting obstacles, and champion them within the organisation. This can be notably beneficial for mothers encountering discrimination and bias in the workplace.

  1. Childcare support

Again, it won't be feasible for all organisations, but providing on-site childcare facilities can alleviate the pressure on working parents. Alternatively, dispense advice to all staff members to inform them about available childcare alternatives in their local area, as well as information concerning subsidy costs. Accessible and cost-effective childcare options assist mothers in staying active in their professional lives without compromising their child's welfare.

  1. Salary transparency

Promote transparency within pay structures to eradicate wage disparities based on gender. Routinely assess and reveal wage data to certify that employees, particularly mothers, receive equitable remuneration for their abilities and contributions to the business. We strongly advise executing a gender pay gap analysis annually and openly publishing the results for all your employees to view. In fact, for some organisations, this is a statutory obligation. Learn more about gender pay gap reporting to see if your organisation falls within this category.

  1. Anti-bias training

Provide ongoing anti-bias training for employees and higher management teams to recognise and combat unconscious biases related to motherhood. Sensitise staff to the challenges faced by working parents and emphasise the importance of equal treatment and opportunities for career growth.