Child Care Parenting and Work Productivity & Flexibility Professional Mums

Working Mothers and the Quest for Flexibility 

The recent report from gender equality charity, the Fawcett Society and Totaljobs have found that fewer than one in three working mothers have access to effective flexible working arrangements. This is something that will come as no surprise to mums like me.

The Flexibility Stats Don’t Lie

The report found that 84% of mothers faced challenges coming back to work from maternity leave and 30% received no support at all. On top of that, 19% have considered leaving their job for one with better support while a further 11% actually left. Although none of this is a surprise, it’s still disappointing to read. True flexibility means trust from employers and that is something that many working mums don’t have.

As a working mother, I’ve worked for several companies since having my first child and have had issues in most of them. Seemingly simple requests like swapping a day off to accommodate childcare or taking 15 minutes out of my day for the school run have been commented on and sometimes flatly refused. It’s exhausting to have to constantly ask for flexibility and dread the answer.

Fighting for Flexibility as a Working Mum

In one company, I was in a position where I had to pick up my daughter from across town one day a week in the afternoon. It meant I would be away from my desk for about half an hour one day a week. But would work longer in the evening. My boss at the time made out they were fine with this arrangement as long as I asked permission. Fair enough, I thought.

Only, I soon realised that I couldn’t have a blanket pass for every Wednesday. I had to bring it up and request it every week. It soon became stressful when the requests were met with sighs and comments. Such as ‘not every boss would be as accommodating as me you know’. A simple request ended up becoming so stressful that I made arrangements for my husband to do the pick-up. Which was much less convenient for him, but I just hated the humiliation of asking all the time.

But in that situation, at least I was given the time off…grudgingly. In another job, I had a boss who was also a part-time working mother. I once had a childcare issue and needed to swap my day off. But instead of solidarity, my request got squashed. I was told that I couldn’t ‘pick and choose’ my working days. Despite being in a job that could easily accommodate this and it being my only time asking. Needless to say, I didn’t stay in the role much longer after that.

Time for Employers to Embrace the Flexible Future of Work

I am just one out of possibly thousands of women who have come across this issue. I’ve moved jobs a few times to try and find the balance I need to juggle family life with work. If employers would realise this, they would save themselves so much hassle in re-recruiting. Working mothers don’t take the mickey. They always make up their hours and work until the job is done. And it’s seemingly only noticed when they are unreachable for 15 minutes out of the day.

Although I’m now in a better place professionally, I can always spot the stressed-out working mums during the school pick-up. They’re the ones with their phones constantly in their hands so they can refresh Teams every 10 seconds.

If employers educate themselves about the challenges faced by working parents and embed flexible working patterns into their work culture. We’d all be a lot happier. Mums would stop having to pretend they don’t have children and finally ignore Teams for half an hour.

If you’re a working Mum in need of a role with an employer who supports flexibility, check our flexible job platform.

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5 Scary things Employers do that make Working Parents say: ‘NOPE!’

Spooky season is here. While working parents up and down the country will be running around trying to find the perfect pumpkins and scouring the web to find a Barbie or Super Mario costume for their little cherub, it’s things that happen at work that scare them the most.

With certain companies removing remote working options for employers, many workers have decided enough is enough. Between that, no career growth, toxic cultures and zero work-life balance it’s no wonder that many employers are joining the great resignation and quitting their jobs. 

Here are five scary things employers do that make working parents say NOPE!

1. Moving Away from Remote Working

With the pandemic now a memory, more and more companies are moving away from 100% remote working. This is inconvenient for some, but for working parents it can be a deal breaker. 

Flexible childcare service, Pebble, has recently revealed that the move away from remote working is costing parents more than £600 extra per month in childcare. Many are quitting to seek more flexible options elsewhere. A whopping half of the 2,000 parents polled said they planned to quit because of no more remote working and a third said they had already moved to a company with more flexible options. 

2. Not Offering Career Growth

If there’s one thing that will make an employee search for a better job, it’s offering no career growth in the one they’re in. Feeling trapped and stagnant makes people unhappy and so employers need to take note. Investing in employee development is key to keeping good workers. By providing opportunities for training, upskilling and career progression, you’re committing to their long-term success and will keep them long-term.  

3. Creating a Toxic Culture 

Having a toxic work culture can be detrimental for anyone’s mental health and can rightly push employees to seek opportunities elsewhere. Things like being unable to make a mistake, lack of trust, micromanaging, role confusion with no clarity on expectations and excessive stress among staff, will push workers to pastures new. Instead of this, employers should recognise and reward employees, give clear job descriptions and learn to trust. 

4. Giving Employees No Purpose or Fulfillment 

Having purpose and fulfillment at work is more important than people realise. Employees want to make a meaningful impact in their careers and will seek work that aligns with these values and provides that sense of purpose. If employers don’t offer that, they’re likely to jump ship.

5. Work-life balance

Different from simply more remote working, having true work-life balance means that workers – especially working parents – can properly balance their personal and professional lives. Employers need to embrace flexible working arrangements, offer hybrid work models that allow employees to work remotely part of the time. Flexible working shouldn’t be a perk of a job, it should be a right.

If your a working parent that want to alleviate these fears, take a look at our flexible working roles here.

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The Cost of After School Care

It’s been a long seven weeks for a lot of parents. But now the summer holidays are over, life can go back to normal and working mums and dads across the country can go back to their typical 9 – 5. Or can they? Campaign groups are warning that the cost of after school clubs and extra childcare is going to skyrocket, meaning that, if some parents can’t obtain basic flexibility at work, they won’t be able to afford to work at all.

We’ve always known that nurseries are extortionate – the average annual cost of a full-time place is now £14,836 – but after school clubs don’t seem to be much better.  

National charity, the Coram Family and Childcare Trust conducted a childcare survey and found that prices were up 3% this year compared with 2022. The average cost of an after-school club in Great Britain is £67.42 a week or £2,629 during term time. 

Private Costs

Like most things, going private can be costly. But, with demand for after school care outweighing capacity, many parents don’t have the option for school-provided after school clubs. 

Catherine in Newcastle says:

I moved house last year and the local school has no space for my daughter. I didn’t have the flexibility at work to take 40 or so minutes to drive across town and pick her up so I had to use a private after school club since the school provided club was full and had a ridiculously long waiting list. The private club cost £15 per day and I needed to use it three times a week. That £180 a month practically crippled us.

The struggle is real for working mothers. The general opinion is that nursery is expensive but as soon as the kids are at school, it’s easy to work around them but with after school care in such high demand and so expensive, it’s not always the case.

The Early Bird

This is true for most areas of parenting but early planning is key. The most affordable option for most parents is the school-run after school club rather than the private clubs. However, these clubs are very popular and fill up fast. Parents who realise that they need after school care once their children are already in school tend to miss out. 

To give yourself the best possible chance, it’s recommended to get your child on the list before they start school. Even if you’re not sure you’ll need the space. It’s better to be prepared. 

Activities Instead of Childcare 

It’s not the case for all but some schools offer after school activities for a small cost that can also serve as after school care. Catherine from Newcastle found this to be a better option when moving her daughter’s school:

When we were finally offered a place in the new school, I found that Mondays were tricky for me to leave my desk for school pick up. I noticed that the school offered French lessons after school for £7.50 a class. School finishes at 3.10 and the class starts at 4pm. But, since she’s 7 now, the school allows my daughter and her friends to wait in the hall until the class starts. Which means I don’t need to pick her up until 4.45 which makes a huge difference to my working day. It’s also a huge saving from £15 a day and she might learn a bit of French!

Flexibility Would Save The Day 

The most frustrating thing about after school care for older children is that they don’t need a lot of it. Working with a toddler in tow is near impossible. But school age children tend to do their own thing and enjoy some downtime after a day of learning.  If parents have the option to work at home in the afternoon and the flexibility to nip along to the school gates for pick up, we wouldn’t need expensive after school care at all.

Flexible Careers

Is the Flexible Working Bill as good as it looks?

The Flexible Working Bill that recently passed has been a long time coming and workers across the country are delighted. Essentially, it means that employees will be entitled to request changes to their working hours, times or place or work from the moment they start a new job instead of waiting the standard 26 weeks. This will be the case as soon as the bill becomes law in 2024. Managers will also have to give adequate reasoning for rejecting a claim which and the aim is to make flexible working achievable for all. 

The UK’s minister for small business Kevin Hollinrake has said of the new law, “Giving staff more say over their working pattern makes for happier employees and more productive businesses. Put simply, it’s a no-brainer. Greater flexibility over where, when, and how people work is an integral part of our plan to make the UK the best place in the world to work.”

Sounds great in theory but is it too good to be true? 

Flexible by name but not always by nature 

The name of the new bill is misleading. Having the word ‘flexible’ in the name, suggests that companies will now be required to grant every flexible request when that isn’t always the case. Although employees will now be able to make a request a lot sooner into a job, it can still be rejected. Companies will still be able to hide behind some vague hints of flexibility without fully committing to anything. This could be devastating to jobseekers who decide to start a new role once this bill is in place, believing that their request will be granted and then finding themselves stuck if it’s rejected. The new law does not require companies to be transparent about their flexible policies, which would be a lot more helpful to jobseekers.

Reasons for rejection

One of the biggest issues that some employees have with the new bill is that there has been no change to the business reasons that employers can use to reject a request. Companies who have been churning out the same excuses to deny workers this basic request can continue to do so – they just must appear to investigate alternative options first. 

There are eight statutory grounds for refusing a flexible working request. These are:

·       extra costs that will damage the business

·       the work cannot be reorganised among other staff

·       people cannot be recruited to do the work

·       flexible working will affect quality and performance

·       the business will not be able to meet customer demand

·       there’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times

·       the business is planning changes to the workforce

Currently, employers can reject flexible working, while using one of the above reasons and no other explanation. 

A study by the Trades Unions Congress (TUC) found that half of new fathers and employees on lower incomes – usually less than £40,000 – are less likely to have their requests accepted. When the new bill comes in as law, the reasons won’t change. It basically means that the same people will face rejection, just sooner.

A (baby) step in the right direction

It’s not great but it’s not awful either. We can’t really consider it a win for those looking for flexible working. But it’s a (baby) step in the right direction. We all know that flexible working shouldn’t be a perk. It’s a basic right and it’s the only way that many people in the UK are able to work at all. 

The bill is a good step in normalising flexible working but it isn’t enough to cause a celebration.

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How working parents can survive the summer holidays

It’s the time of year that working parents dread – the summer holidays. While kids up and down the country are celebrating, the parents and caregivers usually let out a collective groan. As it means almost seven weeks of juggling childcare around work. 

We’d all love to spend the LOOOONG summer weeks enjoying lazy days on the beach. Picnics in the park and days out at zoos and theme parks but the reality for most is quite different. With over 60% of both parents working in the UK, flexibility is key to managing this extensive time of childcare.

Here are our top tips to survive the summer – with and without the coveted flex.

Talk to your boss early

It’s easy to say this in July, but explaining your situation to your manager early, may be key to negotiating time off. Working from home might help if your little ones need to be picked up or dropped off at awkward times. If working isn’t feasible, discussing with your employers early may allow you to carry over or pay for extra annual leave. Or come up with a temporary flexible solution where you can make up the hours in the evenings or weekends.

Partner up with friends

Everyone says it and it’s so true – mum friends are the best! Issues will pop up in the summer holidays for even the most organised of parents. You might find that the holiday club you woke up at 5am to get a coveted spot on actually runs 12 – 3. Or the two hour gymnastics class you were relying on is cancelled during summer. For those occasions, you need your pals. Try and book the same holiday club as friends so that you can take turns dropping off the kids. Coordinate days off so your weeks are covered and remember to treat yourselves to a glass of wine and a whine when it’s all over! 

Wake up early for maximum flex power

If you’re lucky enough to get flexible hours at work (we know we all should have this but it’s not always the case) make sure you use your time extra efficiently. This means early starts before the kids wake up and later nights. If you can get in a good stint in the morning from 6 – 9, you’ll have cleared your inbox and made a good start to the day before your little cherub has demanded her cornflakes. 

Buy ALL the crafts

If all else fails, and you need to work around your precious poppets at home, stock up on ALL the crafts and activities that will allow you to have some desk time while they’re occupied. Yes, there will be days when you’ll have to stick them in front of Disney Plus for the day and that’s ok but make yourself feel better by dumping some paints, glue and glitter on them and relax while they do something ‘educational’…at least for five minutes.

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Flexible Working is NOT a Right to be Earned

In Scotland, it’s been revealed that only high earners have the luxury of flexible working. Just over half of Scottish workers who earn less than £20,000 annually can work flexibly. Compared to 73% of workers earning over £50,000. These shocking figures come from a report from Flexibility Works and prove that not all’s fair in flex and work. 

The benefits of flexible working are getting harder and harder to ignore by employers. And with two in five Scottish workers admitting that the flexible option is the only way they’re able to work, this statistic simply isn’t good enough. 

The Office Wars

The first assumption many people will have when reading these statistics is that the low paid workers who were used in the survey, may have jobs they don’t lend themselves as well to flexible working. However, Nikki Slowey, director, and co-founder of Flexibility Works, put this idea to bed. 

“Initially we thought this was because more low paid workers are in frontline roles, such as in the care, manufacturing, and hospitality sectors, where employers need to be more open-minded and creative to create flexibility,” she said.

“But our figures show this isn’t the case – frontline or not, the higher earners always have significantly more flexibility than lower earners.”

It would suggest then that the only reason for the shocking disparity between earners is trust. For whatever reason, higher earners command more trust in their jobs that allow them to work flexibly.

Slowey says, “Lack of trust is likely to be part of the problem because we know some employers still expect workers to ‘earn the right’ to work flexibly; but the full reasons are something we need to explore further.”

Trust Goes Both Ways

The issue of ‘trusting’ higher earners and that trust in a role must be ‘earned’ is ridiculously old fashioned.  As we’ve discussed time and time again, the pandemic proved that businesses won’t come to a screeching halt if workers work or home or around other commitments. 

Employees, or those looking for work, in Scotland who earn less than £20,000 will be losing trust in their employers if they are not allowed the same rights as workers with a higher salary. Those on a lower income may rely on flexible working more than those who earn more for childcare or caring arrangements. It’s simply unfair to not allow them this basic right.

Flexible Working Costs Nothing

Clare from East Lothian, Scotland works as a family support worker and is one of the few ‘lucky’ low earners who works flexibly.

“No one comes into my line of work for the money but having a good work-life balance makes a world of difference,” she says. “My husband works shifts so I sometimes need to be able to pick up my children at short notice and on different times and days in the week. If I couldn’t work flexibly, I’m not exaggerating to say that I couldn’t work. It just wouldn’t be feasible for my family.” 

The study is based on research with more than 1,000 Scottish workers, 248 employers and 216 unemployed Scottish adults looking for work. It found that salary was the key differentiator on whether someone worked flexibly or not.

Careers Advice

Getting the Most out of Work: 5 Tips from Gen-Z

Gen Z don’t have the best reputation when it comes to work. Some unfair stereotypes floating around about them is that they are entitled and work-shy. When this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Gen Z are those born between the mid 1990s to early 2010 and they’re slowly replacing millennials as the new ‘young’ generation of workers. Fearlessly ambitious and entrepreneurial, these young workers have seen the mistakes made by parents and grandparents. And are creating opportunities for themselves while keeping the important things at the forefront of their minds.

Here are five tips from the younger generation that we should all follow. 

Mental Health Comes First

The Gen Z lot have watched us older lot suffer from burn out for years. They’ve seen their elders push mental health to the side and not let it take priority and suffer the consequences. As a result, this age group puts mental health first and isn’t afraid to bring it up in the workplace. This may be by speaking up about issues they’re having and requesting time off accordingly. Or even leaving a workplace if their policies aren’t up to scratch. We should all take note from this refreshing attitude and not be afraid to question the norm at work when it comes to mental health.  

If it’s Not Right, Don’t Stay

Boomers and, to a lesser extent, millennials, often have the attitude of company loyalty. The notion that if you put the years in, you’ll be rewarded but that isn’t always the case. The younger workers tend to view employment as transactional and as something they do in order to enjoy life outside of work. This also means that, if things are not entirely to their liking at work, they’ll be on the lookout for other opportunities and that is no bad thing. Sometimes company loyalty isn’t the answer. Think like a Gen Zer, if it doesn’t feel right, walk away. 09

Hustle Like You Mean It

Gen Zers are the masters of the side hustle. No other generation has been so entrepreneurial as many young people feel that a traditional 9-to-5 isn’t enough for a fulfilling career.

Flexible working makes it easier for people to run businesses or take on other jobs throughout the day. And having multiple income streams in today’s world couldn’t be more important.

The side hustle also allows you to monetise hobbies such as writing or art which may not be possible for a full-time role. It’s also important to look out for employers creating the illusion of flexible working.

Do What You Love

Not as money driven as previous generations, Gen Zer still know their worth but are motivated by more than salary. A good work-life balance, benefits, flexible hours and other perks are just as important and given the choice between a better paid job and one that meets their personal needs, many would choose the latter. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Your Mind

Some old school bosses might not appreciate the candid nature of the Gen Zer. As most of the workforce in this age group are not afraid to challenge the norm and speak out.

While many millennials and boomers may relate to the ‘start early, finish late’ and ‘eat at your desk’ mentality. Gen Zers are happy to start conversations about well-being and flexibility at work.

One thing Gen Zers want more of is flexible working, to access flexible working jobs visit our jobs platform here.

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Single Parents and the 9 to 5: Why it DOESN’T Work

Working 9 – 5 in an office doesn’t work for many people but, for single parents, it’s especially hard. Having only one adult at home to help with the children’s routine and upkeep of the house can be impossible to manage if that adult must also commute to an office five days a week.

The UK has around 1.8 million lone-parent families who are collectively raising more than a fifth of the country’s children. Having an environment where they can work effectively has never been more important. 

Perks of the Pandemic

We all know that working from home is not the only answer when it comes to flexible working. Some employers can actually be stricter in terms of timekeeping for home workers. Making it impossible for employees to leave their desk for more than a few minutes at a time. For those in companies who have a more relaxed approach to WFH, it can be a godsend for single parents.

While the Covid-19 pandemic was devastating, it proved that WFH can be effective. For single parents, this opened a whole world of working options that were not available before. With no other adult help, WFH allows parents to keep on top of household tasks during the day. And spend less money on childcare while cutting commuting time and even allowing some much-needed time for themselves.

“I became a single mum at the beginning of 2020,” said Emma from Edinburgh. 

“For the first couple of months, it was business as usual with me working full-time in the office, but it soon started to take its toll. With only me around after work and school, my evenings were eaten up by washing school uniforms, making dinner, and catching up on cleaning and that was on top of the usual homework help, bath and bedtimes. I was exhausted.

When my office introduced working from home, it really saved me mentally. I had time throughout the day to keep on top of washing and cleaning, have dinner cooking and just generally have a bit of time to take a walk or have a bit of a rest. I also gained around two hours a day by not commuting. Although I’m now expected to come into the office twice a week, it’s still a lifesaver knowing that I have those three days at home. My biggest fear is if they stop home working completely.”

The Point of No Return  

And Emma is not alone with her desire to keep homeworking. According to a survey by US-based recruitment platform FlexJobs, about two-thirds of people surveyed between July and August 2022 wanted to keep working from home. However, big corporations such as Disney and Starbucks are leading the way in championing a full return. 

For single parents, this approach simply doesn’t work. The burden of the daily commute and lack of support at home means that their need for flexibility is greater than most.

These workers make up such a high percentage of staff in the UK and their needs must be listened to. Like other employees, they’ve proved they can do their jobs outside the office and if employers can’t accommodate parents’ need for more flexibility around home working, they risk a talent drain as these parents seek out new roles with companies that can. Switching to outcome-based work and WFH seems the way forward, especially for single parents.

If you are a single parent looking for a flexible working role, check out our flexible working job platform here.

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Flexible Faker – 5 signs that employers are NOT that flexible

Looking for a new job can be a minefield, especially when you need your new role to be flexible. Recruiters can make new roles out to be wonderful when, in reality, they’re woeful. 

Because most job seekers have cottoned on to the idea of flexible working, many companies are scrambling to make their companies sound as appealing as possible.

This can result in very vague or even false claims on job adverts to attract more candidates. Making it even more difficult for candidates to spot the great deals from the duds. 

So, is that amazing sounding new job a great find or a flexible faker? Here are some reg flags to watch out for when job hunting and the questions you should always ask.

1: ‘We’re not looking for someone with a 9-5 mentality’

This may sound like music to your ears if you’re looking for a more flexible role. But beware; companies usually use this phrase to hint that they likely ask you to log on in the evening or at weekends – despite your personal schedule.

It suggests that you always have to be ‘on’ which completely underestimates any work/life balance you’re hoping to have.

While flexible working is the goal here, an official ‘end’ to the working day is also important. So any suggestion that you essentially need to ‘keep working until the project is done’ is not healthy. 

2: ‘We’re like a family’

This used to be an attractive thing to hear as a prospective employee but now it just sounds creepy.

No company should want you to be as invested in them as you are your actual family.

This phrase also suggests that you’ll need to offer extreme loyalty and ‘muck in’ to get the job done. Probably not for a fair wage either. 

3: ‘You don’t need to come to the office if you’re ill’ 

Working from home has a lot of advantages but it’s not necessarily flexible. Many companies still see home working as a bit of a treat for employees. And some even think that WFH is a great solution when you’re sick.

Being unwell requires rest.

Not physically coming into an office is great as you won’t spread germs. But you also won’t get any better if you’re not allowing yourself to rest and recover. 

4: ‘We have a supportive culture for working parents’

This is great to hear, especially if you’re planning on starting a family soon. However, a lot of claims from companies are only skin deep.

They might wax lyrical about the support they offer to parents returning to work but the parental leave may be minimal.

5: ‘Flexible, Intentional Working’

The pandemic saw a massive shift in flexible and home working. What was once a rarity, offered only to a select number of employees, soon became the norm for companies to stay afloat. Some employers have decided to keep the home or hybrid working patterns while others very much want a full-time return to the office.

However, the term ‘return to the office’ is off-putting to many candidates and so employers have been a bit crafty.

Some new phrases that have been coined include ‘flexible, intentional working’ and ‘work appropriately’.

But dig a little deeper and it seems like these buzzwords and catchy phrases are just another form of fake flexibility. 

(Ref –

So, what can you do?

As a candidate, there are many things you can do to ensure that your new role is right for you. Remember, interviews go both ways so don’t be afraid to ask some pressing questions before accepting a role. If benefits are offered, make sure you find out how they play out in practice and ask specifically about the employees who have used them.

You should also look out for a high turnover rate in staff as that’s usually a red flag.  A good way for potential candidates to get a really good idea of a company and to see if their claims about flexibility are true, is to speak to current or past employees. LinkedIn offers a unique way to reach out to employees of a company you’re interested in so there are no nasty surprises when you accept a new role.

Take a look at some trusted flexible employers with Find Your Flex here.

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