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Why do we need to keep talking about flexible working?

June 10, 2014

Our story:

WELL… here is a topic I never thought I’d have an opinion on. I never pictured my head and my heart combining and turning into some scrambled mess when it came to returning to work after having Rory.

Whilst pregnant with Rory and counting down the days until my maternity leave date, I Googled “full time working mum success stories” obsessively. I needed everyone and anyone to tell me I was making the right decision.

Choosing to return to work, 40 hours a week, when my soon to be Son was 7 months old. But was that really my choice? Or did I not feel I had any other options?

So fast forward to Rory being here and I reach “the hump”. The middle point of your maternity leave where suddenly you are closer to returning to work than you were to not. It dawned on me that I wasn’t prepared to return to work full time. Like seriously, it wasn’t gonna happen!  I emailed my boss and asked to know the process to request flexible working.

I was sent a form, and although it was apparently a pretty standard format, it wasn’t comfortable to fill out.

The questions were as follows. “How will your flexible working request impact your team members”, “How will your flexible working request impact the business”. They felt like loaded questions. It felt as though whatever I wrote down as an answer would come back to bite me.

In my opinion, my request wasn’t too much of an ask. Instead of working 8am – 5 pm (meaning Rory would spend 10 hours in childcare, 5 days a week – due to commuting), I wanted to work 8am – 3pm and make up the lost hours at home.

I had a meeting, where, to quote Mother Pukka, I was made to feel like a “toddler demanding marzipan at bedtime”. It wasn’t that anyone was mean or rude. It was that there was no positivity. I left that meeting knowing my request would be denied, and of course, it was.

I was offered 8am – 4:30pm.

Bleaugh.

I was lucky. I had a blog and a backup plan. The months running up to me handing in my notice, my blog started making money, so I decided to take a chance. But that didn’t mean it didn’t come at a price. It’s been tough. Sometimes I don’t know where the next job is going to come from and sometimes I don’t get paid on time which means our bills don’t get paid on time. I also walked away from a company I had dedicated myself too and a job I worked my balls of to get promoted too. I loved my job and feeling that I had to choose between my career and my baby wasn’t easy.

Anyway, I’m digressing.

The benefits of flexible working:

I used to be of the mindset that “Why should employers care that we had kids? It wasn’t their choice, so why should they make adjustments for our lifestyle choices”. Makes sense right? Well after being put in that position, I decided to do a little research and actually, there is a hell of a lot of reasons they should.

Flexible working means that you have better, more driven and loyal employees. Employees have better moral, and the company will have a better reputation. There is a lower turnover, keeping on valuable, experienced employees and as well as that, when it comes to recruiting you’ll have more choice because more people would want to work for a company with such fantastic benefits.

Flexible working has benefits for everyone but I really want to emphasise how difficult it can be when you become a parent. It’s really important to know your rights in the workplace from the second you fall pregnant.

Employees have a right to request flexible working.

Websites like Tax Talk are a great resource for finding hard to reach HMRC numbers (lord knows they ain’t easy to come across!) as well as sharing amazing articles discussing your rights as a parent and within the workplace.

*This is a collaborative post.

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