Andrea Bohačíková is the founder and CEO of Marter, a company primarily dedicated to the education and retraining of parents on and after parental leave. Today, her organization forms the largest community of proactive parents in the Czech Republic. We asked Andrea about the current situation in the field of employment of parents on parental leave - mostly mothers on maternity leave.
You are the founder of Marter. What led you to found it? Was it your own experience in the field of employing mothers on maternity leave?
Fate directed me that way when my college friend Christine got pregnant. Suddenly I found out that parental leave is not just a "pink period". It also creates a big negative impact in society, and it's for women's careers and futures. Which doesn't change until we retire, and that's why we have such extreme differences between men's and women's pensions in the Czech Republic.
In the Czech Republic, we take one of the longest parental leaves in the world, up to four years per child (three years paid for by a contribution). However, this specificity and luxury also brings with it certain negative effects, such as social isolation causing frustration, deprivation, depression and burnout syndrome and, last but not least, high unemployment of the target group. The unemployment rate is continuously around 60% for women with completed parental leave.
I said to myself, "Not like that! I'll do something about it." I couldn't accept that reality. Even though I didn't know exactly how to deal with it yet. The first idea was a mobile app that would connect moms to each other. Kind of like Tinder, but not for the purpose of a love affair or sex, but to eliminate the social isolation of mothers. However, this idea was not a good solution at the time.
Because I'm like a bulldog going after my target. I talked to people, I did research, I put together data, ideas, and eventually Marter was born and it evolved into what it is today.
Marter today has a wide range of activities and services on offer. What were the first activities you implemented within the organisation?
We operate in the following four divisions:
1) Education and Development, our largest and oldest branch. We started with workshops in the children's café. Today, our offerings include mostly online learning, automated learning like video courses, hybrid programs, and live events.
2) Advertising portal for flexible working. Here we connected with employers who believe in flexible working for over 400 mothers.
3) Corporate Services, where we help large employers with processes regarding flexibility, diversity and inclusion, pro-family corporate policies, as well as training for line management and employees on parental leave.
4) Last but not least, we do a lot of outreach on the topic of the potential of parents of young children in the labor market. We publish a podcast, write a blog, hold roundtables with employers and the state, and push for systemic change and legislative change.
Your services can be used by both parents and companies. How do you rate the supply and demand ratio of jobs suitable for parents on parental leave? Is the demand for employing parents from companies increasing?
The demand for work from parents is certainly not small. At Marter, we see dozens of male and female applicants every week. Unfortunately, demand far outweighs supply in this case. Few employers are willing to offer part-time or flexible working hours to parents with young children. This is a great pity. What many parents need is precisely the possibility of combining care with work. However, it is not only the employee who gains, but the employer himself.
Let's look at it from a data perspective. If we talk about the supply of part-time jobs in the Czech Republic, last year, according to Eurostat, it amounted to 5.7% of the total supply of jobs in the Czech Republic. I can tell you from experience that flexible work is mostly hindered by stereotypes in the heads of line managers and we need to work on that.
When we talk about work flexibility, we should remember that part-time work is not necessarily 4 hours a day. It can be an hour or two that you work. You're getting some income. You are employing your brain and, most importantly, you have self-fulfilment in addition to your role as a parent, carer, etc.
The demand for work from parents is certainly not small.
Is it at all profitable for companies to employ parents and primarily mothers on parental leave?
There are two levels here, the parent who was already working for you before going on parental leave and the new employee coming in after their parental leave. With an existing employee, the big advantage is that you're no longer investing the resources and time in training that you would with a complete newcomer. However, that doesn't mean you're not training at all. Watch out for this.
In the second case, in a new employee after their parental leave, you get a loyal, empathetic, flexible, independent, yet team player who in most cases learned to prioritize because they had to.
Further advantages and benefits for employers were brought by 1 February 2023 and the amendment to the Labour Code favouring part-time work. This is the first swallow to promote work flexibility and also the first legislative notch of our Marter organization. The law introduces a discount on social security contributions and state employment policy contributions for employers of 5% of the aggregate of the assessment bases of the employees for whom the discount will be due. The discount applies to part-time contracts of between 8 and 30 hours per week with the following groups of employees:
● persons over 55 years of age;
● Parents of children under 10 (including foster parents);
● persons caring for a loved one who is dependent on someone else's help (dependency level II);
● high school or university students or employees with recent retraining;
● persons with disabilities in the unprotected labour market and persons in retraining.
When we conducted a survey of employers in the Most, Ústí and Ostrava regions, where the situation with part-time jobs is much worse than in Prague and the Central Bohemia Region, we found that such support could positively motivate local employers to offer part-time jobs. Whereas in Prague and the Central Bohemian Region we were told that such a step is completely unnecessary. We shall see what the reality will be.
Does the trend of employing parents only apply to Prague or to other regions as well? In which regions/cities do you observe the highest increase in job creation for parents?
I am glad that this is not only about Prague. Even though Prague and the Central Bohemian Region have the largest supply of suitable positions for parents. The best thing about working flexibly and using remote working is that the region doesn't have to play any role at all. We use remote working a lot ourselves at Marter. There are 33 of us on our team (90% on parental leave), we live in over 8 counties and two countries and it still works for us.
Is it administratively more challenging for companies to employ parents on a part-time/flexible basis?
The aforementioned law on preferential part-time work brings with it a certain administrative burden. Another disadvantage may be that the employer needs a minimum of two workers per job. Which means two wages, two reporting, etc. On the other hand, you get more opinions, more know-how, more perspectives, a wider network of contacts, etc.
How would you describe a suitable job for a parent on parental leave? What criteria do you think such a position should ideally meet?
Sufficient work flexibility, ideally with the ability to work 100% or frequent home office. That's why your parents will "rip your arms off". We fill such positions through our job portal for flexible hours. If physical attendance is required, the employee should know well in advance to arrange childcare. You should also have a plan in place in case of the child's illness, i.e. how the employee will work if the child suddenly becomes ill. A tip used by our clients: you can set aside a part of the agenda that can be done from anywhere and have that prepared in advance for that eventuality.
What are you currently working on? Do you have anything new for readers to look forward to? It looks like you're not bored.
There's plenty of that. We are working with large employers to develop the next stages of their pro-family corporate policies and parental leave management. Which will help them cover HR, training, diversity and inclusion as well as ESG. There is even a government grant call for these areas that we are helping with. Which might be of interest to readers. We are starting a project with the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic. It is a hybrid career restart program for single mothers from the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Roma women from Ukraine who can handle the program linguistically. We are currently looking for corporate partners for it. And last but not least, we are working on our mentoring program: Parenting is not a brake, which we also offer as an employee benefit and is in great demand.
Photo: Kateřina Ceralová