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Returning to STEM
Returning to STEM

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2.1 Part-time working

Women are much more likely to work part-time than men. In 2013 around 13.4 million women aged 16 to 64 were in work (42 per cent part-time) and 15.3 million men (12 per cent part-time). Even among those who worked full-time there were differences in the average hours worked per week. For example, men on full-time contracts worked on average 44 hours per week while women working full-time worked 40 hours per week (Office for National Statistics, 2013).

However, most part-time jobs are at a lower skill level and lower paid than full-time work, and it is still very difficult to find senior level part-time work, thus many women who return to work are faced with having to re-enter work at lower levels than before their career breaks.

With changes in legislation it is increasingly possible to negotiate reduced hours once you are in employment, but this entitlement does not necessarily cover you if you are trying to get back into work after a break.

What are zero-hour contracts?

Zero-hour contracts refer to an employee who is on call with no set minimum hours or definite schedule and yet works under an employment contract. Often, they receive no holiday or sick pay. A prevalence of zero-hour contracts is found in the hotel and restaurants sector, the health sector and the education sector; for example, 90 per cent of McDonald’s workforce in the UK (upwards of 80,000 workers) are employed on zero-hour contracts (Neville, 2013). Although there is not much job security or predictability on such contracts, for some people the flexibility of being able to work when and where they want can be attractive, especially if combined with other work. It might be a useful stopgap and a way to build up work experience after a career break.