First For Business
FLEXIBLE APPROACH SCHOOL MAY NEARLY BE OUT BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR WORKING PARENTS? JULIE FARMER DISCUSSES THE DIFFICULTIES FACED BY MANY WORKING PARENTS AS THEY TRY TO BALANCE THEIR WORK LIFE AND CHILDCARE AND ASKS WHETHER THERE IS MORE BUSINESSES COULD DO TO HELP.
s the school summer holidays approach plenty of parents will be counting down the days to an annual family trip abroad, days out and a break from the usual school routine.
But, for some parents, the thought of organising childcare for six or seven weeks while also managing their own work responsibilities can be somewhat of a headache. Of course, year round, many working parents have to make choices as to how many hours to work, taking into account the cost and availability of childcare. But even for those who feel they are juggling work and home life just fine, July and August can throw a spanner into their carefully balanced routine. The summer months are often when alternative childcare arrangements are brought in, such as sharing responsibilities with friends, calling more on grandparents or paying for summer camps, childminders or private childcare sessions. However, if employers were able to offer more support, could parents manage without all of this extra help, reduce their childcare fees and stop feeling so guilty about working during the holidays? Would employers lose out if they offered more flexibility, or would they actually benefit from it themselves? According to Sarah Jackson OBE, chief executive Working Families: “Employers offering some form of childcare support as part of a benefits package can widen the pool of talented individuals they recruit from and find that it acts as a competitive differentiator when it comes to attracting staff. “In terms of retaining talented staff, parents, and increasingly grandparents, who are helped with the challenge of balancing their work and care responsibilities have been shown to value their employer more and consequently are less likely to move on to a role with competitors. There is no doubt that the
time is right to revisit the business case for childcare and to demonstrate to employers the many ways in which they can support their employees to access affordable childcare that benefits children, parents and business.” Working Families highlights that flexible working is one of the main ways employers can support employees to manage childcare. The business case for flexible working is supported by legislation. The right to request flexible working was extended to all employees in 2014, including those without caring responsibilities. There are many types of flexible working, including: 7' 3$#*0-.*-!' 3$/$( 6 (+'*4 . can vary their hours provided they meet their contracted hours over a week. 7*(+- .. 2 &!*-/)$"#/6 employees work a set number of hours compressed into a shorter 2 &!*-/)$"#//&$)"*) 4*!!+ week or fortnight to reduce the need for childcare. 7 -(/$( #*0-.6 (+'*4 .2*-& (*- 0-$)"/ -(/$( )' ..)*// all during school holidays.
7*( 2*-&$)"*-(*$' 2*-&$)"6 employees still do the same work, but from home. 7#*-// -(!' 3$$'$/46!($'4 responsibilities and childcare circumstances change (for example when a child starts school), so *).$ -$)"+ -$**!.#*-// -( flexibility while a parent trials a new childcare setting or until a place *( .!- /- &!./*-!/ - school scheme can be very helpful, rather than requiring a formal and permanent change to their contract. Employers might also consider offering time off for parents for special events such as sports days, special assemblies, a child’s first morning at school, making the transition to secondary school or for times of illness. Mubeen Bhutta, head of campaigns and policy at Working Families, said: “Supporting parents to balance their caring and working responsibilities makes good business sense: employers who work with the grain of their employees’ lives will reap the rewards of an engaged and committed workforce. Working parents have consistently told us they’d give up other benefits like annual leave in exchange for dependable childcare. There
RMC Media's 30th anniversary celebrations.