Archive for September, 2011

The dreaded call from the nursery

The dreaded call from the nursery

The number on my display sent me into blind panic…it was the nursery. My son was sick! Find out what Emma learned the hard way and how you can be better prepared for an ill child when going back to work.

The first time it happened I was in a store in the middle of a formal investigation. A serious allegation had been made against the manager by a member of their team. It was likely that we would have to suspend them. During an adjournment of the meeting I took a moment to check my phone, and there was the number on my missed calls list, that sent me in to a blind panic!
The nursery! My son was sick.

Immediately my mind went into overdrive, and I was torn. I had been back at work for two weeks, I was working with a completely different team, and this was my first encounter with a somewhat difficult regional manager. I wanted them to be impressed with how easily I eased myself back in. I wanted to demonstrate my abilities and earn their respect. I categorically didn’t want to be ‘the one with the kid’. But my baby was sick, and I had to go. Why on earth had I gone back to work and left him with complete strangers? Here came the guilt trip – leaving my baby, letting down my colleagues, letting down my boss. And I was 45 minutes away.
Before the call came I hadn’t really considered how difficult it would be to manage the situation when it did happen, both practically and emotionally. I had no plan B, as I don’t have any family locally and all of my friends have day jobs too.

Now I am better prepared, and I will share what I do now.

Things to do at work to prepare for an ill child

  • Discuss and agree with your partner, how you will share the responsibility for emergency situations
  • Have the conversation with your boss upfront, as part of your return to work meetings. It will happen at some time, kids do get sick, especially babies.
  • Arrange back up childcare from friends, grandparents, neighbours, specialist emergency childcare agencies
  • Give yourself permission to deal with situations, guilt-free, as they arise, knowing that you will make up the time / work later
  • Have a workplace buddy to support you with any vital work tasks
  • Remember that the work will still be there when you have the opportunity to get back to it
  • Know that you are legally entitled to take unpaid time off work to make alternative childcare arrangements in emergencies. See for more information the DirectGov website, or BusinessLink

What happened after that first call?

The regional manager was fine with it, my boss was really supportive and my baby recovered quickly. The only person beating me up about it was me. I was lucky to work with people who placed a value on their employees and their families. For those people who aren’t so lucky, it is essential to have contingency plans in place, and to look at ways and options to make it work for you.
The other thing to remember is that, for most people, these are rare occasions when you have to take unexpected time out of the business for very valid reasons. If you’re anything like I was, you will be working more effectively and productively because of your childcare commitments. Don’t give yourself a hard time about it. You are doing a fantastic job, of combining your work and family commitments.

Author: Emma Jackson is an experienced Personal and Career Coach, working with individuals to help them define, achieve and fulfil their goals and ambitions, in work & life. Connect with her on Twitter via @EJCoaching

Why everyone hates you going part-time and what you can do about it

Why everyone hates you going part-time and what you can do about it

Ready to request flexible work? Do consider what will be your bosses and co-workers main concerns, and how are you going to address them. Find tips from research and from women like you and … be prepared.

In an ideal world all employers, managers, HR departments and co-workers would be supportive of flexible working. However, in reality this is often not the case. For you it means that, if you would like to work flexibly, you are most likely going to be a trailblazer. This requires a pro-active approach, and you need to be prepared to go the extra mile to make it work.

Not only do you need to know what sort of hours you would like to work, and how you think part-time might work in your role. But also it is wise to address potential concerns of your employer and co-workers.

Fairness

To avoid any form of friction, suggest clear and rational criteria that could work for all employees. Ask your manager to explain to other employees which criteria were applied and how potential issues will be solved. e.g how you will cover for hours not in the office, or for days not worked.

Check for policies in your organization, and try to fit your request within policies. Organisations do not like changing their policies. They also do not like setting a precedent: if you will be allowed a certain amount of flexibility it should be offered to others too. Try and find reasons how this might benefit your company (LINK), or how your situation is different, so will not set a precedent in the first place.

Inflexibility

Employers often complain ‘I have asked my part-time worker to do some extra hours, just like I ask other people in the team, but she blankly refuses’.

When you get a question like this, always engage in a conversation. Understand the business hours for the need to work extra. Suggest other ways you can meet those needs or other ways the needs can be met. Explain clearly what makes it difficult for you to work those extra hours. Discuss whether you are treated the same as full-time workers and why you think you should or shouldn’t.

Clients might not like it

Clients need certain things to happen at certain times. Find out what the essential client requirements are, and how your team could work flexibly together to meet those. Could some staff be on call, without having to be in the workplace? Suggest discussing your proposals with your clients

Promotion prospects

Employers worry they might not be able to give you the same promotion prospects as other workers. Explain your expectations, and discuss possibilities. If you are happy to stay at the same level for a while, communicate this clearly, and include your expectations for how long and what you expect after that. If you are happy with a slower rate of promotion, discuss your requirements. If you do expect promotion, and this is indeed reasonable, suggest how criteria or additional responsibilities might be adapted proportionally, e.g. full-time workers need to build up two accounts, you need to build up one in the same period to be entitled.

Unavailability of your knowledge and skills at key moments

Agree on who will be your back-up. Consider whether you would be open to checking in from home at regular intervals or during key processes. Think about which additional resources you might need to make it work: a laptop, blackberry, access to IT at home, access to the IT helpdesk from home.

You will not have the energy or focus for work

Especially since you are parenting when at home, not there all the time, and working less hours employers have concerns you might be less dedicated. Communicate your goals and priorities clearly. Agree more regular feed-back or evaluation sessions with your boss, initially, to help you clear expectations. Show an interest in what happened in the office during your absence.

It takes more time or money to manage flexible workers

This can especially be a concern when more people in the team work flexibly, or might want to. Understand what the additional costs might be, as usually it shouldn’t take more expenses when someone distributes their hours differently. Managing flexible workers shouldn’t usually take more time than managing full-time, regular workers. Understand what sort of things seem to take more time, and find solutions to manage them in a different way.

There are indeed some areas that really do bring extra costs: The employment of part-time workers may lead to higher training, administrative and recruitment costs. For example, it may take longer to recruit and/or train two part-timers than one full-timer to cover the same hours of work. Providing a continuous level of service may also be more difficult. In addition more time might be needed for communication (e.g. hand-overs).

It is not affordable for a small business

Introducing flexibility does not have to cost a lot. Flexibility is rarely expensive and often the simplest changes have the most impact. The company might actually get more loyal, motivated and dedicated employees in return for a minor investment. Find more benefits for employers in Part-time pays.

Author: Inge Woudstra, founding Director of Mum & Career. She would like to thank the Equality and Human Rights Commission and ACAS, as many of the ideas in this article are based on their guidance and research. For more information please read the Working better: A manager’s guide to Flexible Working from the EHRC, and the Advisory Booklet: Flexible working and work-life balance by ACAS

Creative ways of finding part-time work

Creative ways of finding part-time work

It’s not easy to find a flexible job or an employer that allows you to work flexible hours. But it can help to get creative.

Don’t give up, here’s some ideas that might just help you find the job of your dreams.

Start with your old employer

Many women returners find the best place to start is their old employer. They might have an opening themselves, or know what’s happening in your field. Go for a chat, and see where they are. Prepare yourself by reading up on the latest developments in your field and on flexible working.

Consider up-front which type of working hours would suit you, your family and your field of work best.

Try small or medium-sized businesses

You might find that many small or medium-sized businesses, often started by women, provide flexibility. There are for instance virtual PA’s businesses, and law firms that mainly work with free-lance lawyers. You can find a case description of one of these companies on Business Link – government’s online resource for businesses. It is tremendously encouraging and they sound almost too good to be true.

Look in local papers

Do check out local papers, as many part-time jobs, for instance in local schools and charities are advertised there. A recruitment agency like ‘Women Like Us’, knows that parents like to work in the local area, and advertise locally too.

Retrain

Part-time jobs are more prevalent in certain sectors, mainly in: nursing, education, administration and finance. However, don’t let yourself be put off if those are not the areas you are qualified to work in, you should not forget it is possible to re-train and many women do.

Create it yourself

If you work in a field that doesn’t offer much part-time options, you could be the trend setter and become one of the first people in your field working part-time.

A highly stressed corporate lawyer might consider moving into family law or in-house law, which can offer more flexible hours. An academic might secure her own funding and work hours to suit her. Go for it! Create it yourself!

Apply for full-time jobs

Just apply and take the risk. Many employers have a flexible working policy, and some are willing to discuss flexible hours, with the right candidate. Once you seem to have a real chance in the process, start discussing your requirements. Obviously you will not get the hours down to 2 days a week, but the employer is looking for a job to be done. Perhaps you can do that job when working partly from home, or working 4 days of 9 hours, thus still providing the employer with a good quality candidate.

Recruitment agency or head hunter for flexible work

You will find a list on our part-time working page.

Become your own boss

Start your own business or go free-lance

Sex and power: why women choose to go missing from the top jobs

Sex and power: why women choose to go missing from the top jobs

Women have crashed through prejudices in the last 25 years, but some of us have chosen happiness over hard-won careers.

Read more in The Guardian, Sunday 21 August 2011, by Madeleine Bunting

Part-time pays

Part-time pays

In the UK there are over 600,000 women with children who want to work but can’t find the job opportunities to fit around their family life. Most have plenty of experience. So why then are they finding a job search so difficult?

The truth of the matter is that it remains a struggle for women with children to find a job that not only suits the hours they require, but to find a role that is at the level of their skill-base and experience. Despite recent improvements, there is still a severe lack of part-time opportunities at more senior levels in companies. One of the problems is getting more companies to realise the many benefits that can be gained from recruiting part-time staff – at every level.

Benefits for employers of hiring part-time

By hiring part-time an organisation can:

  • buy-in a higher level of expertise and talent with the same budget. F or example securing a part-time senior employee for the price of a full-time junior;
  • split a full-time job between two people. This way an organisation might acquire a mix of skills and talent that might be impossible to find in one person alone;
  • Employ staff only for the time necessary to deliver a job. This can greatly improve both productivity and profitability; it also lends itself to higher staff retention rates;
  • open up a pool of talent and experience that would otherwise be excluded from a typical job search: the woman returner.Simply by reducing a prospective job down from 5 days automatically widens the appeal of the job to women with children who want a part-time job for the long-term and are keen to remain loyal and committed in exchange for flexibility.

Women Like Us research shows employers recognise these benefits

Interestingly, research conducted by Women Like Us has pointed to the fact that the tide is starting to turn and employers are beginning to wake up to these benefits. For instance, 73% of employers Women Like Us surveyed said they thought the 9-5 day was an outdated concept and no longer reflected the work patterns of the UK. 96% of survey respondents said they believed part-time isn’t just for low skilled roles – but that they believed it could also work for experienced, highly-skilled roles. 42% responded saying that senior managers and directors already work part time in their organisations.
It is this kind of innovative HR thinking that, if embraced by more companies, will herald a revolution in the number of existing part-time job opportunities, and in turn will affect the current perception of part-time roles –organisations will see: part-time pays.

Author: Alex Campbell, Women Like Us. Women Like Us was conceived in 2005 and has been growing fast ever since as an award-winning leading recruitment specialist in part-time work. They have not only built an organisation that is commercially successful but also one that has a core social value – enabling women to find – not just any job – but the right job.

Over the past six years Women Like Us has built up a candidate-base of 22,000 women in London, all looking for part-time work to fit with family, and has 3,000 employers of all sizes on its books, from SMEs to the UK’s largest retailers. It has also witnessed a 41% growth in jobs advertised through their service in the past year. Looking for a part-time opportunity or more information? Visit: www.womenlikeus.org.uk