The days of Dad going out to work and Mum staying at home to look after the kids are long gone. In the majority of households, both parents need to be earning an income in order to keep the family financially solvent.

The problem working mothers face is that a lot of HR departments don’t seem to have woken up to life in the 21st century. But help is at hand in the form of Working Families; a free legal advice service for parents who need help with employment rights.

Nearly 41% of the calls to the Working Families advice service relate to maternity issues; such as rights, pay, redundancy and discrimination. And it’s not just women who ask for advice. 14% of the calls were from men asking about their eligibility for paternity leave or wanting advice on how to cope with childcare when their shift pattern changed.

A recurring theme seemed to emerge once all the calls were analysed and that was that employers were retracting previously agreed flexible working patterns. This puts the employees in a difficult position. If they refuse to accept new working practices, they may find themselves at the top of the firing line.

But as Working Families points out, contracts should be mutually agreed and if employers impose changes, they are in breach of contract. Furthermore, the companies that do change contracts at will are ignoring the evidence that flexible working boosts performance.

The UK still hasn’t recovered from the recession and jobs are hard to come by. But that will change, and employers that still refuse to move with the times could find themselves regretting it as key employees jump ship for a more family-friendly working environment.

It can be difficult, especially for smaller businesses to adopt flexible working practices, but they should try their hardest to understand the needs of their workforce.

How does your business cope? Are you sympathetic when parents ask for flexible working or do you think everybody should stick to the old-fashioned nine to five working regime?

About Maggie Berry