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Work Journeys

Meet Chris: A working Dad at Hastings Direct

My family and I relocated to the south coast four years ago and I was looking for a new career away from retail. I was originally attracted to join Hastings Direct because I knew that insurance was a growing industry and the company had a range of opportunities for colleagues to develop. Since then, I have seen Hastings Direct expand to further offices including a city centre office in Leicester.

In September 2016 I moved from full time to part time shifts to offer my family extra childcare support. I have progressed to a Digital Customer Representative and when I work evenings I’m a coach for new colleagues in Academy. Working part time at Hastings Direct has allowed me and my wife to have our own careers. The flexibility in my work enables me to arrange a shift plan that suits my home life and gives me a great work life balance. It allows my wife and I to share the responsibilities of childcare while bringing money into the household and giving us quality family time at the weekends.

My wife and I both enjoy working and appreciate the time we have to socialise with other adults. I love the variety of work and the diversity of people I work with at Hastings Direct. I enjoy working in our Head Office because the majority of departments are here in Bexhill – it’s very easy to find a colleague from another area of the business to help with a query. Everybody in the company is keen to help and I love that we’re all moving in the same direction.

Hastings Direct has been very supportive since day one, particularly my Team Leader who is invested and knows my motivations inside and outside of the company. Hastings Direct cares about its colleagues and takes notice in what is happening in our lives.

If you like what you have heard and would be interested in finding our more, please visit Hastings Direct Careers.

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Mums Returning To Work Professional Mums Work Journeys

Mums Make More of Themselves at Screwfix

Being a mother comes first and there may finally be one employer who understands that. Here, Amy tells us about making real friends, working the hours she wants and actually having a life with her son – who, due to his condition, needs a little extra love.

How does Screwfix fit around your home life?

Perfectly. The contact centre is 24-7, so you can choose hours that suit you. I do 5pm ‘til 9pm, four nights a week, which is really good because of my 16 month-old son. My partner picks him up from Mum’s at half five, so I don’t have to pay for childcare. Obviously I’m not doing weekends, which is nice. And they even give you the option to reduce (or increase!) your hours. They’re really good about that and I really feel like they care. My manager is really supportive. My son was born with a condition, so he’s been in and out of hospitals having operations for more than the year of his life. But thanks to this job, I can spend the day bonding with him guilt-free.

Do you enjoy the work?

Definitely. Obviously I take calls, which I really enjoy because you do get to know the customers. You end up having a laugh and helping them at the same time. Everyone who works here makes it a brilliant environment, too. It’s nice to be able to talk to so many different people – older and younger, people with kids and without kids. There’s no set seating plan, so each day I can sit next to my friends or learn about someone new. Plus, you do get a lot of praise here. Each week, we have a score which shows us how well we’ve done. Mine’s been been five out of five for the past few weeks, which I’m really proud of. Sometimes you get left really nice comments from customers as well, which makes you happy to do the job.

“When I first joined, I thought there would be loads of targets, but it’s very relaxed. You’re more genuine to the customers, which keeps them coming back.”

Do you need to know about tools and hardware?

No, they provide all the training. I don’t think it’s about customer service experience, either. I’ve done it as a manager in the past, but there are people who have come here straight out of school. They look at who’s positive, bubbly and friendly. From there, you spend two weeks with your trainer and they go through everything with you. And you decide when you go on the phones. I was on them the first night because I was just eager to learn. They love this because it’s a very rewarding company. They look after their staff and good work is definitely recognised right across the company. They’re determined to help you progress onto bigger and better things, but if you’re content with where you are, that’s fine too.

If you want to learn more about our roles at Screwfix, click HERE

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Mums Returning To Work Professional Mums Work Journeys

Meet Neha: A working Mum at Hastings Direct

“Whilst on maternity leave following the birth of my first child I was made redundant by my previous employer. As you’d imagine, I was full of worry – I had to find a new job as well as find my way as a new mum. However, my worries were soon put at ease when I found that Hastings Direct were recruiting for a part time Team Leader – this was a great opportunity for me as I was able to use the skills I had developed via my NVQ Level 2 in Team Leading.

When I first joined Hastings Direct as a part time Team Leader the role helped me to achieve a perfect home/work life balance. During the day I spent time with my daughter and during the evening and weekends I was able to challenge myself at work to be the best Team Leader I could be. The best thing about working part time was the huge saving we made on childcare. On average my husband and I saved almost £600 a month because of the part time hours I worked at Hastings Direct, and because of this saving; we were able to have two family holidays a year. It also allowed both my husband and I to have one to one time with our child; which we feel is so important.

Having now completed Hastings Direct’s in-house Team Leader training, I feel I have been supported and further developed my career with the company. Since January 2017 I have progressed to a full time Academy Team Leader.
I now work fixed shifts across afternoons to evenings and weekends which allow me to still have a positive work life balance; enabling me to plan ahead and be flexible with my home life. I feel paying for childcare is similar to giving a salary away so I feel very lucky to not have to call on it and I’m able to save while working full time due to my shift pattern. When I work weekdays I spend every morning with our daughter and my husband is with her every evening. So, we’re still saving on childcare as well as spending our one to one time with our daughter. On the weekends we spend time as a family and when I do work a weekend I have a weekday off which allows me to have time to myself, which is also important!

I feel very fortunate to do a job I love while being able to have a great family life – a real ‘win win’ situation!”

If you like what you have heard and would be interested in finding our more, please visit Hastings Direct Careers.

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Mums Returning To Work Work Journeys

Internships, a viable path to work? Our latest mummy blogger found out the hard way!

I’m a 44-year-old busy mother of three. I have a Masters and a BA degree. I took an 8-year career break to bring up my children. In September 2017 my last child started school and I tried my best to return to employment.

In March 2017 I was called for interview in a graphic design company in Croydon. I was interviewed in a very plush office, with beautiful wooden office furniture and an impressive décor. The person who interviewed me told me that he was offering an internship for a ‘writer’. He agreed that it was “a bit of an insult” to offer me such a role (i assume he said this because of my age and past work experience) however we both agreed that I would learn from the digital marketing experience (so much has changed in the last 8 years!) and that he would profit from my former work experience and maturity. I was expected to work office hours (9am -5pm) Monday to Friday.

My initial impression of the office was good. There were at least 12 Apple macs and the office was wide and comfortable. This ‘appearance’ was later to be subject to ridicule when I observed that the professional looking office that I had been interviewed in on the floor above did not belong to the company I was working for. In addition, I soon noticed that the desks in our office were being advertised as “rentable desk space” on the company social media site!

On commencing my internship I was asked to rewrite the whole of the company website and proofread numerous important emails. A month into the ‘internship’ I began to get concerned that I had no contract. I was working very hard, my husband works abroad so things were particularly strained at home, especially from going from being a full-time mother to a full-time working mother.

After two months I was informed by my boss that my internship position as a ‘writer’ was to be changed to a ‘business developer’. Personal business cards were designed for me with my job title as, ‘Business Development Manager’. I went full steam ahead attending breakfast and evening networking meetings, entirely funded by myself. In one such networking meeting I met a human resource employee who commented how scandalous unpaid internships were! Imagine my situation, I was attending the Chamber of Commerce networking meetings and doing presentations whilst not having a contract, receiving pay slips or paying tax.

After asking my boss directly, at the end of the three months internship, if I was to be taken on eventually; would my role be paid by “commission only?” I was assured verbally that this would not be the case, thus implying I would get a salary.
My boss assured me, “We would love you to stay and grow with us” and proposed that I work another month and that he would pay for my travel and lunch. He said, “As you know it’s all about the sales and money that you are able to bring in for the business. At the end of that month we can sit down again and evaluate the sales you make.”

I was being urged by my friends to leave the company. However I had made business connections and could see potential leads. I decided to complete another month.

It was to my surprise then that my boss was ‘away on business’ for the entirety of this last fourth month and incredibly, at my boss’s request while out of the country, I was asked to create and write the company business plan for which took up considerable time and effort. This diverted me away from the Business Development role.

In spite of this I did manage to get a lead with a prominent company and organised a technical call between my boss( in Dubai) and the lead in the U.K. However, I didn’t feel comfortable to pursue the business development until my boss returned to the office as I didn’t have the technical skills to carry out the work. I feel sure, however, that I initiated contact with a company that will be bringing a continual income to the graphic design business (if the development work is satisfactory for them). I also had several other leads and felt confident that I would get business soon for the graphic design company.
An internship is a period of time during which someone works for a company in order to get experience of a particular type of work. This is certainly what we agreed at interview. That role is not the same as a paid employee who is expected (and motivated) and capable to perform 100% from the start. It appears my boss confused the two, expecting his “interns” to perform as “employees” without paying them.

Sales, in a B2B environment do not happen overnight, it takes time to cultivate relationships with potential clients. People buy from people & businesses they know, like & trust and this takes time.

At the end of my internship I was offered a base salary but ONLY if I were to reach an unrealistic monthly sales target. It seemed a no-brainer. I had already worked for four months for nothing and I wasn’t prepared, at this stage, to accept a commission-only payment structure.
The terms of employment that I was offered after my internship ended, meant that self-employment was not an option, as my boss was determining my hours of work, performance, etc. which means that I would be classified as a “worker”.

It is clear to me that the company I worked for did not have a proper business model to take forward without the use of unpaid workers, for there were three other interns working in the company at the same time as me. They were not even receiving expenses! I left the company asking myself how frequent are these type of unpaid internships being snapped up by honest, hardworking and educated people being led to believe that they may eventually be employed? I also marveled at the fact that my ‘’boss’ succeeded in having four graduates work standard office hours for three months without paying us a penny!

A disgruntled Intern/Mum.