Working mothers are often forced to accept lower paid jobs so that they can care for their children, a new report finds. Despite the flexible working policies of many larger businesses, women often have to accept jobs below their skill levels in order to balance work and family life – leaving them overqualified and underpaid.

The report by the Research Base, an independent agency which researches across economic and social agendas, finds that while 4 out of 5 mothers return to work at least partly for financial reasons, they are not properly remunerated upon their return.

According to the report, employers are blinkered by the traditional notion of the working week. They fail to think about how to allocate tasks and responsibilities in a way which could ensure that the skills and experience of many working mothers are not lost.

‘This report hits our desks at exactly the right time – and with the right way forward,’ commented Dame Ruth Silver, Chair of the Learning & Skills Improvement Service and member of the Women and Work Commission. ‘These difficult economic times need different responses. Just as employers face new downsizing challenges, this report arrives with an alternative route to retaining the best of their colleagues for the wellbeing of their enterprise.’

The report calls on employers to improve the availability of flexible working for all employees and to structure jobs by tasks, not time.

Being able to work flexibly and part-time is critical for the vast majority of mothers returning to work. However, securing part-time work in a bar or a supermarket is relatively easy – but is almost impossible in law or project management.

This appears to be the case regardless of sector, with respondents evenly split between public and private.

‘It’s not just families who are losing out,’ said Matilda Gosling, Managing Director of the Research Base. ‘Employers are not making full use of the skills and experience available to them. It’s bad for business, and bad for the economy.’