Career women who opt to switch from full-time to part-time work while their children are young often fail to regain their status or salary, even after they return to full-time employment after only a year,reports a Government-funded study.

The women find they are passed over for promotion and paid far less than their equivalent colleagues, according to the Equal Opportunities Commission.

The EOC brands this form of discrimination as the mummy track.

The report shows that on average women who have taken one year in part-time work earn 10 per cent less after 15 years than those who work full-time for all 15 years.

The report titled, Part-Time is No Crime - so why the penalty?, was funded by the D of EE following Government proposals encouraging flexible working hours also confirms that the vast majority of part-time workers are women.

Woman who have two children often are never return to full-time work because of child care responsibilities, with the likelyhood of a woman remaining in part-time work increasing one average by over seven times if she has a second child under the age of up to five.

Also due to child care responsibilities there is a tendency for these women to take more menial jobs because they are local as haveing young children inhibits the ability to communicate.

The government and the EOC agree that the only way foward is to introduce more flexible working hours that would enable mothers to properly balance a working career around caring for the family needs.

The EOC report also shows that over the last thirty years the wage gap between part time women and full time men both caring out the same role has not changed with the gap remaining the same at 40%

The EOC, say Britain is facing a crisis if it does not address the need for flexible hours at work. with women hardest hit by the part-time 'penalty' which channels them into low-paid jobs with poor prospects often because they take on more of the caring role at home.

With almost7.5 million part-time workers in the UK it is essential that these changes are carried out sooner rather than later, large employers of part-time women such as food giants ASDA they say the secret is creating a management team that is willing to think outside of the box of traditional working arrangements.

The right to request flexible working was introduced in April 2003, and although take-up by women has been high there are no indications that flexible working is opening up in more senior jobs, with Managerial employees most likely excluded from any such agreements.

The lack of action is impacting on business, as new methods would open up access to a wider pool of often highly skilled labour as women are more likely to seek employment where they can find part-time working as well as ensuring that companies retained existing staff that they have invested time and money in by training them to the standards required.

source Equal Opportunities Commission