London, Aug 19: Providing flexibility to women at the workplace may help them maintain their careers post childbirth, a study has found.
Researchers from the University of Kent in the UK noted that it is "the ability to take advantage of the opportunity to work flexibly that is most useful" in preventing women from dropping out of the labour market after having their first child.
They studied a dataset from a large household panel survey with data on flexible work from 2009-2014. and found that women who were able to use "flexitime" were only half as likely to reduce their hours after the birth of their child.
This effect was especially the case for women who used flexitime prior to the birth of their child as well as after, researchers said.
They observed that more than half of women in their study sample reduced their working hours after the birth of their child, while less than a quarter of women who were able to use flexitime reduced their hours.
Researchers found that it is the use of flexitime - rather than perceived access to it - that matters most.
"For mothers with newborns, perceived access to flexitime in itself may not be enough to tackle the work-life balance demands they are faced with. The flexibility needs to be enacted to really make a difference," researchers said.
"Flexible working may help alleviate some of the negative consequences of the motherhood penalty, by allowing mothers to remain in human-capital-intensive jobs, which can help diminish the gender wage gap," they said.
The study was published in the journal Human Relations.