Friday, January 20, 2017

A mum of two has set up a recruitment agency aimed at parents who wish to work flexible hours or part-time, to fit in with family life. MARTINA O’DONOGHUE talks to Karen O’Reilly about falling in love with Clonakilty, her business Employmum and why we need to catch up with other countries

THE New Year often signifies new beginnings and for some that means new employment opportunities or a return to the workforce.

However, parents who wish to work flexible hours or part-time to fit in with family life find it difficult to obtain such work. Clonakilty based mum-of- two, Karen O’Reilly, has found herself in exactly that position and has addressed it by setting up her own recruitment agency, Employmum.

The aim of Employmum is to tap into Ireland’s underused resource of educated, qualified and experienced people who may not be in a position to work full time due to home duties. The online agency aims to match employer’s needs for short term flexible staff with employees who want to work either from home or in a flexible manner.

According to the latest CSO figures, there are currently around 77,000 women seeking either full or part-time employment. There are also 464,000 women who list their occupation as ‘home duties’. In comparison, there are little more than 10,000 men in the same category. So while all parents might benefit from signing up to the service, it is mothers in particular who might be more likely to do so, hence the name of the company.

Limerick native Karen qualified as an accountant before leaving our shores to see the world, including a five year stint in Australia, working in her chosen profession. She briefly moved back home to settle down but she only lasted six months as she admits couldn’t handle the rain!

France was to be her next home, as she set up a business with her sister, Suzanne O’Reilly, selling property in the south of France. When the property market suffered in the recession, their business evolved to become an English-speaking tour company, giving wine tours in the region. While her sister is still in France – having married a French man – after 12 years Karen eventually decided to face the rain and come home with her husband Brian Harrington and two kids Alannah and Dylan, in 2013.

And why settle in Clonakilty?

“My mum moved here about ten years ago and every time we came back from France we fell in love with Clonakilty”, explains Karen.

“It’s close to the sea and there always seems to be something going on here. We had decided we wanted the kids to be Irish. They were aged six and eight when we came back. It was the right time and it was an easy move with regards to school. It was a ‘now or never’ moment and we have no regrets. We love it here. The schools are fabulous and we all genuinely feel like we’ve won the Lotto living in Clonakilty. The beach is five minutes away — and it’s the great people that make it, really.”

Having taken a few years off to get the children settled into their new home and school, Karen then set about trying to find work, only to find herself coming up against a brick wall.

“I’m a qualified accountant but there was no support — or no jobs, really, on a flexible basis. I kept hearing I was over-qualified for lots of roles. I really wanted to work but in a flexible way. And if you’re not living in an urban area your choices are limited even more”, she laments.

Karen decided to take matters into her own hands and went about setting up her own business to reach out to other mums and dads looking for flexible work. She approached her local enterprise office in Clonakilty, which gave her a mentor, Veronica Murphy, to help with building the business.

“She was excellent; a very smart lady who gave good advice”, says Karen.

She also did a Start Your Own Business course for six weeks and at the Rubicon Centre in CIT she completed the six-month Exxcel STEM programme for women entrepreneurs with a STEM background (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).

Compared to setting up a business in France, Karen found the experience in Ireland much easier.

“Doing business in France is very difficult. It’s very bureaucratic and they’ll put up all kinds of obstacles in front of you. Doing business here — and the opportunities here — there’s nothing like that in France and other countries. I found it very encouraging.”

Lately, Karen has been building her database and trying to get the word out there.

“I’ve had a huge response from people with all different types of backgrounds, from those with a Masters to those looking for cleaning jobs — and everything in between”, she says.

However, employers might still take some convincing to come on board.

“The traditional way of working — to be in the office from 9am to 5.30pm — is still the mind-set of Irish employers; to be looking over shoulders to make sure the work is being done. This needs to be changed for the future of the workforce. We are way behind the UK, US and Scandinavia. In the UK it’s being brought into legislation that you have to offer flexi-time for everyone who has worked for you over 26 weeks”, she explains.

“We have had a lot of support from some companies, like Contacting PLUS, who do administration for contractors.

They love the idea — but I would love the big companies to be on our site, like Amazon, Facebook and Google. That’s the next goal.”

While the benefits for potential employees are obvious, what’s Karen’s pitch for the employers?

“Employmum will save company time in sourcing the right personnel for the flexible job at hand”, says Karen. “Overheads — office space, computer station, lighting and heating, office equipment — all these costs will be saved in the case of remote workers. Savings on employing someone full time – and all the associated PRSI costs — will be made.”

As it doesn’t cost candidates or clients to register on the site, Karen describes it as a “matchmaking service”. She will shortlist candidates for a role and if one is employed Employmum will get a matchmaking fee from the client.

She has match-made for a number of roles already, including a graphic artist and an accountant. And since setting up the site she has recognised another aspect in which job candidates need some help.

“What I’ve discovered is a serious lack of confidence among people who have stepped out of the workforce for a few years. They’re very bad a selling themselves, they’re almost apologising. There’s a need there for a coaching element, to get back their mojo and not be negative about their career gap in any way. So I also recently brought in a coaching element to our business.”

Karen will host a workshop on February 25, in the Kingsley Hotel, with Gillian McGrath of ChangeGrowSucceed. It will focus on tips for getting back to work, working on CV presentation, interview and networking techniques as well as selling oneself positively. Numbers will be limited to 12 and it will provide an opportunity to network with other mums returning to the workplace, email employmum@gmail.com for more

Just like those mums that Karen is hoping to assist in the pursuit of flexible work, she herself is working from a home office, with the help of local woman Liz Gavin who has also returned after 19 years working abroad.

Liz said: “I work from 9am to 3pm and it’s amazing what you can get done if you put your head down and ignore the housework. The breakfast dishes don’t get cleaned until after 3!” she laughs.

“I do two hours in the evening as well, and at weekends I do an hour here and there. It’s full on but it’s very enjoyable and very rewarding, doing what I want to do, really.”

See www.employmum.ie or find Employmum on Facebook.

 

 

A national survey by Employmum recently showed: ■ 34% of people looking after the home or family have a trade or professional qualification. ■ 16% of people looking after the home or family have a third level degree or higher. ■ 9% of people looking after the home or family are members of a professional body. ■ 91% of people looking after the home or family would consider registering with an online service that would help them find flexible / part-time work to do from home and related to their skills.

■ 34% of people looking after the home or family have a trade or professional qualification. ■ 16% of people looking after the home or family have a third level degree or higher. ■ 9% of people looking after the home or family are members of a professional body. ■ 91% of people looking after the home or family would consider registering with an online service that would help them find flexible / part-time work to do from home and related to their skills.

■ 16% of people looking after the home or family have a third level degree or higher. ■ 9% of people looking after the home or family are members of a professional body. ■ 91% of people looking after the home or family would consider registering with an online service that would help them find flexible / part-time work to do from home and related to their skills.

■ 9% of people looking after the home or family are members of a professional body. ■ 91% of people looking after the home or family would consider registering with an online service that would help them find flexible / part-time work to do from home and related to their skills.

■ 91% of people looking after the home or family would consider registering with an online service that would help them find flexible / part-time work to do from home and related to their skills.

■ 34% of people looking after the home or family have a trade or professional qualification. ■ 16% of people looking after the home or family have a third level degree or higher. ■ 9% of people looking after the home or family are members of a professional body. ■ 91% of people looking after the home or family would consider registering with an online service that would help them find flexible / part-time work to do from home and related to their skills.

■ 16% of people looking after the home or family have a third level degree or higher. ■ 9% of people looking after the home or family are members of a professional body. ■ 91% of people looking after the home or family would consider registering with an online service that would help them find flexible / part-time work to do from home and related to their skills.

■ 9% of people looking after the home or family are members of a professional body. ■ 91% of people looking after the home or family would consider registering with an online service that would help them find flexible / part-time work to do from home and related to their skills.

■ 91% of people looking after the home or family would consider registering with an online service that would help them find flexible / part-time work to do from home and related to their skills.

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