Practical Bravery: JOELI BREARLY



New mums are worried about leaving children with other people; about juggling new responsibilities, childcare and bringing the whole self to work. They are worried about the cost of childcare and about flexibility for emergencies, illness or anything that else that means child and mum need to be together. And if your work is linked to your self-esteem and your purpose, to your motivation and identity – then time away from it and not thinking about can crash that confidence – especially given how much a business and its processes can change in a year. And then the guilt – why should any of this get in the way, when having children is a privilege and a choice?

Whether you’re looking through the lens of productivity or performance, culture or compliance – the HR strategy of any business, whether there are 20 of you or 2,000, should be to be an organisation in which people can be their best.

There can be great positive impact in seeing maternity support as an opportunity to rally round, upskill, demonstrate collective empathy and recognising that there will be some new perspectives and priorities that could actually be helpful. You have an opportunity to genuinely transform an employee’s life for the better in ways that almost certainly foster loyalty, close connection and creative thinking.

It is hard for small businesses, but so is everything. Lean in and collaborate with affected staff rather than hide behind policies. How can businesses help with childcare – which is the number one barrier and concern? It could be through tax relief and salary sacrifice, or just by being flexible on work start and end times.

In this episode Richard Freeman meets motherhood defender, entrepreneur, charity leader, agent provocateur, organiser of The March of The Mummies and author of  The Motherhood Penalty: How to stop motherhood being the kiss of death for your career – JOELI BREARLY

Key quotes:

“We exist to end the motherhood penalty — essentially we mean the gender pay gap.”

“We all talk about the gender pay gap and often we don’t even mention motherhood but we know that the pay differential between men and women who don’t have children is absolutely tiny, and it’s as soon as you get into those childbearing years that the pay gap widens. By the time your first child is twelve years old, a woman’s hourly pay rate is 33% behind a man’s. We want to close that gap.”

“None of this is about blaming men. If we fixed these structures and systems so they worked a bit better, we would have more equality.”

“Through the creation of capitalism, you needed somebody to create the next labour force. You needed somebody who was procreating, reproducing the labour force, looking after that labour force and doing the other bits of work that are required to sustain capitalism, the unpaid labour.”

“Change is slow because the whole structure is patriarchal. Really, we need to burn the whole thing down, everything needs to be burnt down and start again.”  

“Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy because we just do it, and don’t question it.”

“We know that last year we helped women secure £1.3million in terms of settlements after experiencing discrimination or in a tribunal case.”

“The campaigns we run are not little tweaks, they’re not easy things to fix: this is about radically changing the way we live and work.”

“I get my kicks from the services we run. I get messages all the time saying without you I would have fallen apart. I do get kicks out of the campaigning as well but campaign is losing, you know, campaigning is bashing your head against a brick wall.”

“The money that the government gives to the childcare sector, they underfund those places by about £3 per child, per hour, and don’t give those nurseries opportunities to make up that shortfall, so those costs have to be passed down the chain. That’s why you have childcare professionals on minimum wage. We’ve had 20,000 nurseries close since 2015.”

“Of course we talk about it from the perspective of the mothers, and some providers don’t like that. They think that we should be talking about it in a very different way. And we think, come on guys, we’re in this together!”

“The fact of the matter is, this argument will be won off the back of parents, it won’t be won off the back of providers. Because we’re a bigger group! We’re making that noise, we’re making that point repeatedly.”

This episode was recorded in January 2023

Interviewer: Richard Freeman for always possible

Editor: CJ Thorpe-Tracey for Lo Fi Arts


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