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Flexible Working Shared Parental Leave

Parental Leave: Why aren’t Dads speaking up for workplace rights?

“When did we agree that motherhood had to be a struggle?” So said Stella Creasey MP in a recent edition of the Sunday Times.

You may remember that Creasey made headlines back in September when she chaired a debate in Parliament with her newborn son, Pip, in a sling on her chest. Well, that wasn’t what made the headlines. What actually made the headlines was the fact Creasey received a letter from the Parliamentary authorities. Telling her that babies were not be brought into the debating chamber.

What does an MP Breast Feeding in Parliament have to do with Men gaining Shared Parental Leave?

You may be wondering what this has to do with DaddyJobs. In my opinion it has a lot to do with men’s place in the workplace and the home. I’m going to come to that in a moment, but first, a bit more about Creasey and her campaigning work.

Creasey took Pip into the debating chamber because she was breastfeeding him. You might think that sounds like an odd thing to do. You don’t, after all, generally see breastfeeding women taking their babies on to the shop floor or the office.

It’s not so straightforward for MPs. They are classed as ‘office holders’ as opposed to employees. So they don’t have the usual rights to parental leave or employment rights. While MPs do receive six months of parental leave, only an MP can vote or take part in a debate in Parliament.

This put Creasey in an awkward position when she had to chair that debate last September. Only she could chair the debate, but she knew Pip would need to be fed. So baby had to go along with mum.

I would say the rest is history, but it isn’t. That was just the beginning of the story. Creasey received a lot of flak from other MPs, the speaker of the House of Commons and a veritable army of ‘armchair commentators’ made their thoughts known on social media.

Changing the system for Women AND Men

Despite this, Creasey held strong. Her aim is to get the Parliamentary authorities to rethink their stance. So that a proper system of maternity cover can be put in place for MPs. And also for it to be possible for a locum to take part in votes or debates. She makes an excellent point that women could be put off entering politics by the current state of affairs. Along with Pregnant Then Screwed, Creasey launched a campaign called This Mum Votes. To encourage women with children into all levels of politics.

So far, so Stella Creasey. So what has this got to do with dads and working culture?

Where are the dads in Parliament calling for better parental leave rights for women and for men? Yet again, a woman is leading the debate about flexible working, parental leave and work-life balance. Don’t get me wrong, I think Creasey should be doing what she is doing and she is doing a superb job. Without men also joining this discussion, however, this will be classed as a ‘women’s issue.’

We had an Evolution in Shared Parental Leave, but not a Revolution

Back in 2015, Shared Parental Leave (SPL) was introduced. It was a massive step in the right direction and it completely changed the discussion about men’s roles in the workplace and as fathers. While it increased discussion and debate, the SPL system is essentially a form of ‘transferable maternity leave.’ While it is more common to hear of dads taking a couple of months off work following the birth of a child, SPL was definitely more of an evolutionary move than a revolutionary one.

Are there any dads in Parliament demanding a review of SPL? I hear silence, even from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood.

If you cast your mind back to 2018, you might remember Andrew Griffiths MP was interviewed by Emma Barnett on BBC 5 Live (Barnett has gone on to become a Woman’s Hour presenter). Griffiths was on the show to promote SPL and encourage new dads to take some time off to be with their offspring. Unfortunately for him, the interview descended into farce when it transpired Griffiths recently had a child, but was unable to take SPL because Government ministers don’t qualify for it!

Yup, exactly the same rules that meant Creasey had to take her child into Parliament meant Griffiths couldn’t take SPL. Griffiths was made the butt of jokes in various newspaper reports but Creasey turned her experiences into a high-profile campaign that is gathering increasing interest and momentum.

Men need to be campaigning for better Parental Leave along with Women

Why does this matter? We need MPs to represent everyone. We need greater recognition of the fact equality is only achievable if men campaign for flexible working rights, if men campaign for better parental leave and if men campaign for better paternity pay.

This isn’t simply a reflection of the working culture of Parliament. It is a reflection of how committed male politicians are to changing the world for the better, for the better of their children and for the women in their lives.

It is also a reflection of how much politicians want to change wider working culture. If female and male politicians would speak up about the need to improve parental leave and to improve access and quality of flexible working, to improve job design and call upon employers to rethink the workplace, we’d have better equality.

I applaud what Creasey is doing and I think she is absolutely right. I just wish more men, especially those in positions of power in Parliament, would set an example and create a public discussion about why flexible working and good parental leave should be available to everyone.

You know what I also want to see? I want to see a male MP take his newborn child into the debating chamber in Westminster. Now that would make a statement.

It’s about having that conversation about all forms of flexible working, if you want to know more, have a read of John’s thoughts on; if your employer hasn’t embraced flexible working, ask yourself why.

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Business And Careers Flexible Working Remote Working

If your employer hasn’t embraced Flexible Working, ask yourself why?

The historian David Schama once said that “History never repeats itself exactly.” Yet here we are in December 2021 facing identical challenges to the ones we faced on the run up to Christmas last year.

There’s a new variant of COVID-19 on the loose, social distancing restrictions have been put in place and everyone is waiting for the Government to make an announcement in a few days’ time that will dictate whether planned celebrations and family gatherings can go ahead (I’ll say “gatherings” not “parties!”). Despite Schama’s words, I feel a very real sense of deja vu!

Driving Home For Christmas

One of the biggest changes to have happened in recent days is the reintroduction of the ‘Work From Home’ order in England as part of the Government’s move to ‘Plan B’ (bringing England broadly in line with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). My wife and I watched the No10 briefing last week as Boris Johnson made that announcement. I then turned to my wife and said:

“Employers simply have to embrace remote, flexible working. We just don’t know how long this is going to go on for.”

While many employers have embraced more flexible working practices, it’s not a completely rosy picture. Over recent months, various employers had said they wanted staff back in the workplace.

Among them were Goldman Sachs, Future Publishing and JP Morgan. KPMG had just announced it wanted staff back in the office four days a week when Plan B was introduced.

When Employers Don’t Fully Embrace Flexible Working

Of course, these are big employers. Anecdotally, I’ve heard of smaller employers coaxing, nudging, persuading and pressurising employees back to the office.

Employers in this position need to reflect on their working culture and ask why they are behaving like this? Why are they so wedded to making employees commute to a desk and a computer in an office when most people have desks and computers at home?

Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen that remote, flexible working really does work. Yes, there are exceptions such as the manufacturing sector, but for the most part, we’ve not seen the possibilities, we’ve experienced them. Employees are often much happier working this way and a happy workforce is a more productive one.

Why Isn’t Your Employer Accepting Flexible Working Into Their Culture?

If you are an employee, and your employer was demanding you come back to the office, you need to think about the culture of the place you work. At the very least it suggests your employer has learned nothing from the pandemic and has an outdated approach to its operations.

Historically people were concerned about the tech not holding up, but we’ve seen that it works. Let’s not forget, a group of NASA scientists landed the Perseverance Rover on Mars while working from home! If they can do that, why can’t you work remotely and just visit the workplace when necessary?

The focus should be on results and productivity, not on your presence in the office. Just because you’re sat at a workstation in an office doesn’t mean you’re being productive. It suggests the employer doesn’t trust their staff and if you don’t trust your staff, it says a great deal about your recruitment process.

Pandemic Priorities

Let’s get back to the reintroduction of Plan B and the impact of the pandemic. Since September 2020, there have been numerous variants of COVID. We’ve had: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Eta, Iota, Kappa, Lamda and of course Omicron.

If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that there will be more variants. No, I don’t mean to be a doom monger. If there’s one thing I want to see, it’s this pandemic to come to an end.

Unfortunately, that looks unlikely any time soon. If an employer is making a sweeping statement about wanting you at your desk while an ever-changing virus is still sweeping the globe, you have to wonder what their priorities are. It certainly doesn’t seem to be the well-being of staff or staff retention.

Talent Flourishes Under Employers With Flexible Working Culture

The reality is that employers who have embraced flexible working will attract and retain the best talent. Individuals who work this way have been given agency and autonomy and know they are trusted.

I think there will be a brain drain away from the dinosaur businesses who want you in the workplace as often as possible. Those are the old ways and those employers who haven’t seen and accepted this face a very limited future.

To read from more great things from John, check out his piece on who you and your employer need to recognise that; Remote Working is Not Working From Home.

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Remote Working

Remote Work is Not Working from Home!

One of the most misleading statements I’ve seen banded about during the pandemic is that it’s going to lead to huge changes in the world of work. I’m even guilty of saying it myself.

If we seize the opportunity presented to us by remote work, it will be a lifestyle revolution. It’s a more inclusive approach that enables more women to enter the workforce, opens up career paths men traditionally wouldn’t consider, opens up job opportunities to those with disabilities and it removes the need for us all to be tied geographically to a workplace. At the centre of this revolution is the ability to work remotely.

The Reality of how people view Remote Working

The reality, however, is that most people think of remote working in a very limited way. Employers and employees alike confuse remote working with working from home.

Why are we limiting ourselves this way? Remote work should really be about where you are at a given time. Assuming you are producing the work expected of you, does it matter whether you are on a beach in Brazil, a Parisian café or sat on a bench on Wigan Pier? You could be working from anywhere and your home office is just one location.

If I think back to my working life, I was, many years ago, a travel journalist. Among other locations, I filed news reports from The Seychelles, the Hilton Hotel in Toronto and conference centres in France. In many respects, that job was the ultimate in remote work. Hold that thought, I’m going to come back to my travel journalist days in just a moment.

The Remote Work Pandemic

The introduction to remote working for many people was during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Many employers were forced into accepting this way of working, but remote working during a global health pandemic is not what remote working should be.

Restrictions on movement meant the only place most people could work was their family home. Added to that, many people were having to oversee the remote schooling of their children while also doing the day job.

What the pandemic has done is shown us that remote working is possible. My brother-in-law made a fascinating observation on this point. He said:

“Imagine if every IT department in the country was told: ‘On 23 March, you’ve got to make it possible for every employee to be able to work from home.’ They’d have said it can’t be done.”

When it was forced upon employers, IT departments made it happen. We’ve seen that remote working is perfectly feasible. We’ve also seen that when men are released from a long, daily commute, they do more at home (Check out the fatherhood Institute’s Time With Dad campaign for more on this).

Remote Work Anywhere, so long as the Work gets Done

Yet when people talk about remote working, they only ever talk about working from their home. If they’re being really innovative, they may talk about working from a local café for an hour or two.

Remote working should be possible from anywhere. If it’s a glorious day and you fancy working from the beach, why not do it? Fancy catching a ferry to France and having lunch in Calais? Why not plug your laptop in and work during the crossing? Got to visit family in Aberdeen? Don’t take a day off work, catch the train and use the journey time productively.

We must not be limited by the experience of remote working we’ve had during the pandemic. The pandemic set the bar very low. The idea that you can only work from your office or your home is simply an extension of the culture of presenteeism. If accepted and adopted properly, remote working could free us all up to work from anywhere.

Remote Working does not mean Flexible Working either

I shall leave you with one final thought. Back in those days when I was a travel journalist, I worked all over the world and filed content from wherever I was at the time if needed. This aspect of remote working was never called into question. It was a part of the job.

Interestingly, I can’t ever recall working from home when I had that job. I can’t recall any of my colleagues working a single day at home either. To be honest, the culture of the place didn’t permit or encourage that kind of thing. If you were in the United States and had to email something back to the office, that was great but woe betide you for wanting to work from home because it would have made it easier for you to attend a medical appointment.

Isn’t it fascinating that my employer at that time had such an approach? Unfortunately, I think many employers still do and that’s why it’s vital we sing the praises of remote, flexible working and good job design. I, for one, want to join that choir!

If you what to read more from John, check out his take on if the media is driving divisive culture.

Categories
Flexible Working Parenting Shared Parental Leave

Supporting Men in the Workplace upon Return to Work

As Governments of the United Kingdom cautiously signal a slow easing of lockdown restrictions, employees are going to trickle back into the workplace. They may not return five days a week, but return they will. This begs the question: What steps are employers taking to welcome back men into the workplace?


That may sound like a sexist question, but it isn’t. Allow me to explain why:


Many employers are used to welcoming female staff back to work after a prolonged period of maternity leave. Employers often have Keeping In Touch days and other initiatives for women, but not men. Added to this, in most households it is mum who balances work while doing most of the childcare. The past year has been very different. Fathers have been around to help with getting the kids ready in the morning, with remote learning and been much more involved with family life.


This has resulted in a big shift in mentality for lots of men. Far from being sexist, what we’ll hopefully see is men taking on more of the childcare and domestic burden at home. Thereby freeing women up to concentrate on work and their careers. The question is, are employers ready for this monumental change in working culture?


Men’s domestic roles have changed


I asked Ian Dinwiddy for his opinion. Ian operates Inspiring Dads, a coaching service for men in the workplace who struggle balancing work and family life. I asked how he thought employers should prepare for welcoming dads back to the workplace:


“For many people, the return to the workplace will be fraught with tension, potential ongoing concerns about personal safety, and the ‘simple’ emotional challenges of change.


“To support men, it is vital to take the time for an individual assessment of needs, both from a mental health perspective and work life ‘balance’ perspective. Many men will have fundamentally changed their domestic role, especially dads caring for children, and altered their expectations of the trade-offs they are prepared to accept.”


As you can see, Ian confirmed what I’d been thinking: Many men will have reassessed their role in the home. Ian also issued the following warning:


“Any failure to recognise and carefully support men are likely to store up well-being, performance, and talent retention issues for businesses everywhere.”


What the employer organisations say


With Ian’s words ringing in my ears, I approached the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). I asked what advice it was giving employers about welcoming back men into the workplace. I was directed to this article on the FSB website.


Credit where it’s due, the article addresses Ian’s concern that employees might be concerned about the risks posed by returning to the workplace. It also mentioned childcare and the possibility of furloughing staff for longer if necessary so they can deal with children. That said, the FSB didn’t offer any specific advice for supporting dads (or mums) when they return to work.

My next stop was the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). The CBI had a dedicated Coronavirus Hub on its website with some great resources. There were ideas and case studies to help employers support staff mental health and support staff working from home. There was mention of the stresses faced by “working parents” but nothing about easing working dads back into the workplace.


Having looked at a couple of employer organisations, I approached an employer directly. Zurich is a company with a reputation for being a very forward-thinking organisation with a good approach to gender equality. I made enquiries about how it was preparing for staff to return and if it had identified any issues where men in the workplace might need some additional support.

The insurer hasn’t yet firmed up its plans. It is still “considering how to welcome staff back to the workplace” so it’s unclear at this stage what support will be available.

How to support men returning to the workplace

All things considered, I felt more than a little underwhelmed with how UK employers are preparing to welcome men back into the workplace.
With no one else providing tips for helping male employees back in to the office, I’ve put together a few suggestions:

  1. Be mindful of the fact men are less likely to acknowledge and admit they are having difficulties re-adjusting to office life. Have regular catch-ups. Ask how they are doing and make sure they are familiar with any workplace counselling services or mental health support that is on offer.
  2. Why not introduce Keeping In Touch days for all employees before they return to the office? There is no reason why these can’t run virtually.
  3. Look at the diversity training undertaken by your management team. Do they undertake training to better understand the stresses and strains faced by mums AND dads? A lot of diversity training ignores dads. This is a big oversight. The reality is that many employers are more flexible in their approach to working mothers. After a year of working from home, much of it spent in the company of their children, dads will expect equal treatment. Managers need to be aware of this.
  4. Are you ready and prepared for a surge in requests from male employees who want to formalise flexible working arrangements? They’ve spent a year balancing work with childcare responsibilities and been productive. And employers need to give all such requests serious consideration thinking long and hard before turning them down.
  5. Keep in mind that employees may have other caring responsibilities. They may be looking after an ill or disabled family member or spouse.

Being Aware that Change has taken place

To wrap up, let me make clear that women should receive the same levels of support. But employers need to be aware of how a year of working from home will have impacted and changed the expectations of fathers.

Things have changed a lot for men and employers need to accept this and take appropriate action. If they don’t, men will talk to employers who offer greater understanding and flexibility.

Categories
Flexible Working

Why flexible working for grandparents is essential

When my kids started school, there was a group of people I didn’t expect to see in the playground on the school run: Grandparents. Some granddads and grandmothers collected children every day.

It quickly became clear there was a huge army of working parents relying on grandparents to look after little ones. It also came as a bit of a surprise to see this, possibly because of my own circumstances. My wife and I live hundreds of miles away from our families, so we’ve never been able to rely on grandparents for day-to-day support.

That said, there’s one grandad in our extended family who looks after his grandchildren a great deal. He’s retired and in his seventies but very proud of what he does. It’s always a delight to talk to him and hear what he’s been getting up to with his grandsons.

Support for grandparents in the workplace 

Do grandfathers and grandmothers get the support, help or recognition they deserve? To be honest, the picture seems to be a bit messy. 

Here are a few facts. According to the Usdaw Union, there are 14 million grandparents in the UK, half of whom are under the age of 65 so it’s reasonable to assume around 7million of these individuals are still working. Half of all kids under the age of five spend some time being looked after by grandparents. And 2.2million grandparents look after grandchildren to allow mum and dad to work.

Many of these grandparents are what’s known as ‘sandwich carers’. Us parents may think we’ve got it tough with young children, but sandwich carers are looking after two generations. They’re usually looking after their own parents, while also providing childcare for grandchildren and holding down a day job. 

We often think of parents needing flexible working. As the statistics I’ve quoted above show, the older generations are under just as much pressure than their younger counterparts and in the case of sandwich carers, they’re arguably under even more pressure. 

Do we do enough to recognise the immense contribution grandparents make both as employees and as caregivers? I would say their efforts often go unnoticed and unrecognised and employment law doesn’t always make things easy for them.

Flexible working for grandparents, but it’s not all good news

The good news is that grandparents have the right to request flexible working, just like anyone else. Beyond this, things get a bit difficult for any grandfather or grandmother providing care, especially if its for grandchildren.

Employees generally have the legal right to “time off for dependants” if there is an emergency. The catch is that dependants usually have to live with you. 

Unpaid parental leave is another possibility. The catch? You must have legal parental responsibility for any child you are looking after. Yet this won’t apply to the majority of grandparents. 

The impact of COVID-19 on working parents and grandparents

I have somehow got to this point without mentioning the impact of COVID-19. Various campaigns have sprung up recently calling for parents to have the right to be furloughed because they have childcare responsibilities.

Part of the problem is that some grandparents are having to shield or are simply too nervous about catching COVID to look after grandchildren. It’s creating a childcare crisis and some employers are losing staff as a result. 

Hopefully this is just a temporary blip and we’ll return to the ‘new normal’ once the vaccine has been rolled out. When we do return to normal (whatever that normal is) flexible working has to be a the centre of it to enable employers to recruit and retain the best talent and enable parents and grandparents to keep working if that’s their wish.

Older workers have a lot to offer

If we want to make it easy for employers to recruit and retain the best talent, we have to make flexible working available and acceptable for all employees. This includes grandparents who may have all manner of caring responsibilities. Such as looking after grandchildren while mum and dad work.

We also need to recognise that older workers have a lot to offer employees. One of the most compelling arguments I heard for encouraging older men to stay in the workplace is that they have benefitted from a working culture that excluded women. As they reach the end of their working lives, these men make great mentors for women and have lots of knowledge to pass on to younger women who lack female role models and are starting out on their careers. If we don’t make it easy for these older men to stay in the workplace, that knowledge will be lost and no one will benefit from it.

These grandparents deserve our recognition and our support. They’re doing many of us younger workers a huge favour. Employers may be doing their bit by allowing flexible working for grandparents who are caregivers, but it’s a shame employment law hasn’t caught up.

You can check here to see what the predicted changes are for flexible working for 2021: Flexible Working: Predictions For 2021

Or if you are a someone who is looking for a new job with flexible working hours, you can search our jobs board to find the right fit for you: https://jobs.findyourflex.co.uk/

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Flexible Working

Flexible Working: Predictions For 2021

Since March of this year, we’ve seen a seismic shift in working culture courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic. Flexible and remote working have become the norm for many employers and employees. But what does 2021 hold for the future of flexible working? Here are our predictions for 2021.

Many jobs can be done on a flexible basis, that has been proven. Many mums and dads have benefitted from this. Without time spent commuting and with the help of Microsoft teams or Zoom, parents and carers have been around more for their children. 

Ian Dinwiddy, Inspiring Dads

Ian Dinwiddy is a man who knows a thing or two about the changes to working culture. He runs Inspiring Dads, a coaching service for men who want a better work life balance. Asked about the future of flexible working, he said: 

“Covid has exposed the myth that widespread remote and flexible work will be the death of business. There are challenges around wellbeing and connectivity. But, those firms who embrace the new normal will continue attract the best talent and break the paradigm of presenteeism.”

Ian Dinwiddy, Inspiring Dads

As Ian says, it seems hard to believe that we’ll ever go back to the traditional Monday to Friday nine to five job. A COVID-19 vaccine may make it more viable for employees to return to the workplace. However, will we return to pre-COVID-19 work patterns? I spoke to a few experts to find out what they think the future holds for flexible working.

Cheney Hamilton Of Find Your Flex

Where better to start than on your doorstep? I asked Cheney Hamilton, founder and Managing Director of Find Your Flex, DaddyJobs.co.uk’s parent company, what trends she was seeing. Buckle up, because the trends Cheney reports are staggering:

  • Male audience up by 47% in just 30 days
  • Spikes in the 25-34 and 45-45 age groups
  • A whopping 87% of users being ‘new’ as opposed to ‘returning’ visitors in the same period. Which Cheney said: “Shows active/new job seekers are in the ascendancy versus the ‘browsing’ job seekers.” 

Asked about whether more organsiations were advertising roles flexibly, Cheney said:

“We are seeing an increase in ‘non-traditional’ industries entering into the flexible working space. Moving away from White Collar office environments, into Engineering, Healthcare and Retailers.  We are also seeing a marked uptick in diversity and inclusion led flexible working briefs for roll out in 2021.”

Cheney Hamilton, The Find Your Flex Group

Interestingly, Cheney mentioned diversity and inclusion. Some groups, such as those in the disabled community, stand to gain if flexible working becomes the norm. Find Your Flex has been collecting data from users. It does indeed show that users are incredibly diverse. The audience is made up of a range of religious, educational and ethnic backgrounds to name just a few. 

Working Families

Working Families is a charity that promotes flexible working. Catherine Gregory, Head of Marketing and Communications. Asked if home working was likely to become permanent, Catherine said: 

“It’s clear that there’s no going back to business as usual after the massive shift to home working and flexible working precipitated by COVID-19. Employers have realised that many more jobs can be done on a flexible basis than they’d thought before.”

Catherine Gregory, Working Families

She added that productivity hadn’t “taken a hit,” something evidenced by charity’s recent employer member survey. Might we see working from home two or three days a week becoming the norm? 

Catherine said she hoped employers wouldn’t be too prescriptive as some people preferred office working, while others didn’t. 

“The important thing,” Catherine added, “is that employers are looking at outputs as opposed to time spent physically in the office.”

She added that when Working Families surveyed parents about their preferred working patterns, only 1% wanted no flexibility. She made the very important point that flexible working wasn’t simply about home working. It could mean part-time, compressed hours and so on.  

Han-Son Lee, Founder Of The DaddiLife Fatherhood Website

Han-Son said the initial lockdown allowed lots of new flexible working opportunities to emerge. However, whilst this is working well for most parents, he made the important point that maternity discrimination got worse. 

Looking forward, Han-Son believes that having been given a taste of what a flexibly working world could look like, parents will work together. 

“I believe what will start to evolve are ways by which parents can ally with one another. Ways they learn from each other and take the effective steps forward not as individuals but as a group. The world of ‘parenting and flexible working’ is a very different one to ‘non-parents and flexible working. Dads (and mums and carers) need to put strength in numbers behind their need and opportunity around flexible working. This will make for much more sustained change and underline the vast importance of proper flexible working beyond just Covid.”

Hanson Lee, DaddiLife

Some Striking Similarities

Based on what everyone said, some common themes definitely emerged. The culture of presenteeism will be consigned to history as managers focus on outputs and results, for example. 

Second, everyone was in agreement there will be no return to the old ways of working. The change has happened. Huge numbers of people use sites like DaddyJobs.co.uk to both find jobs or advertise roles shows that flexible working is here to stay. 

The challenge will be to ensure all groups, not just parents and carers, have access to flexible roles. It’ll therefore be interesting to see what the new year brings.  

Categories
Flexible Working Parenting

I’m A Dad And I Work Flexibly

Making Changes At Work

I always wanted to be a ‘hands on’ dad. Getting stuck in with feeding, nappy changes, cuddles, development milestones and all of the other things associated with caring for a baby. So, when my daughter was born in 2006, I decided to request a change to my contract to enable me to spend one day per working week with her.

At the time I was working five days per week in a London office in a technology related role; I was not in a position financially to take a reduction in salary, so I went for the ‘compressed hours’ option. By 2007 I was working full time hours across four days rather than five and became a bona fide flexible worker!

Was Changing To Flexible Working A Positive Experience?

On Wednesday’s I would take my daughter (and later my son) to playgroups and the park to feed the ducks while my colleagues toiled away in the office. It was a really positive experience and I have no regrets. However, I did have to endure the occasional jibe about not being available for important meetings and I feel those two years did affect my progression within that team. Once I returned to five-day weeks in 2009, I felt so strongly about this, that I moved to a different department.

The Covid Effect

Fast forward to March 2020, I was still London based, albeit at a different company. I was preparing to start a new job in April 2020. My working pattern was four days in the office and one day ‘working from home’. Which at the time was still considered less productive. Then the COVID-19 enforced lockdown happened, overnight I became a remote worker!

Like most people, the idea of working from home all the time sounded great. I embraced it wholeheartedly – no more crowded trains and expensive sandwiches; however, after a couple of weeks the novelty started to wear off.

Especially when I realised that I was facing the prospect of starting a new job at the height of lockdown in late April 2020!

Starting A New Job During Covid Lockdown

Sure enough, I started my new job and was on boarded remotely without any issues. However, one of my strengths is collaboration and brainstorming. I enjoy conversing with colleagues in both formal and informal settings. None of this was going to be possible for me, at a time when I was trying to establish myself in a new role.

For this reason, my first few months were extremely challenging from a mental health perspective. Especially when home schooling was also factored in.

Tips On How To Thrive As A Remote Worker

However, it is possible to thrive as a remote worker and over time I have managed to adjust successfully. Some tips to enable this included:

  • Developing a routine – including work start and finish times.
  • Taking regular breaks – for comfort and beverages.
  • Doing some exercise – getting outside for at least an hour during the day if possible.
  • Arranging informal catch ups with colleagues during the working day.
  • Discussing any mental health issues with a line manager.

The Future Of Work Beyond Covid

An ideal situation going forward will be a balance of office and home-based work. Local high streets and communities have begun to thrive during the lockdown. I’m hoping that things will change for the better. We’ve proved that it’s not necessary to be in the office all the time to be productive.

A guest blog from Mo Philip.

Disclaimer: This blog represents my personal views and not those of my employer.

Categories
Business And Careers Flexible Working

A Wider Understanding Of Dads And Flexible Working

We have been busy talking to dads and discussing their experiences of working and parenting life through lockdown. Are there positives to come out of this pandemic. What are the lessons learned? What are dads’ experiences of flexible working?

Meet Simon Gregory Managing Partner at GPS Return

I normally explain to people what I do by saying “I run a recruitment business that specialises in helping parents return to work”. What follows is usually an engaging discussion about how, where, what etc. Then that person introduces me to another by saying “he helps mums go back to work”. I’m sure I said “parents”, what happened to the dads?

Dads Face Different Challenges

At GPS Return we work with professionals returning to work, regardless of the circumstances. 95% of them are parents and 95% of them are mums. However, we are seeing more dads reach out to us looking to return to work. But, the challenges they face are quite different. 

David Took 12 Months Out To Be A Full Time Parent

A simple example of this is David, an experienced senior sales manager who took 12 months out to be a full-time parent. On his return to work, as a lot of people do, he reached out to an ex-boss…  “I see your balls have grown back then”. Needless to say, David didn’t go back to work for that particular boss. Sadly the perception that it is the dad’s job to ‘bring home the bacon’ and the mum’s job to look after the children persist. 

Sadly, the fear of being ridiculed for putting family first is stopping many Dads from asking for flexibility. But not Charles. We worked with Charles who, whilst still working, was trying to find a job that offered flexibility so he could be more present at home. He had put in a flexible work request. The result was he could leave work an hour earlier on a Friday. Even though a female colleague in a similar role was allowed to reduce her hours and work some of those hours from home. 

Charles Was Told To ‘Grow A Thick Skin’

What made it worse was that every Friday when Charles left the office early he was met with ‘banter’. “Taking another half-day are you?” and “Have a good weekend, Thumbprint!”. It became so normal that even the Intern had a go. But because Charles was Charles his manager said he should ‘grow a thicker skin’. His HR said ‘it’s just banter so ignore it’.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying dads find it harder than mums. But, we do face different challenges that are often hard to cope with. When things get tough, men are expected to man up and deal with it.

Workplace Evolution

But, as the workplace has been forced to evolve with more people working flexibly, there is now a wider understanding. This understanding comes from both businesses and individuals, of the benefits that it can bring to business and home life. Companies are reassessing whether they need large offices and whether people need to be in the office every day. Staff are wondering if they can cope with a full-time job whilst the kids are on school holidays.

Deeper than that though, people we’re speaking to are re-thinking home and work. Rather than having one parent working 60hrs per week and one full-time parent, why not have both parents working a combination of reduced hours and remote working. This way both can develop a career and spend quality time with the family? 

David and Charles both found opportunities. This time with organisations that valued their skills and experience and offered them the flexibility they were looking for. In other words, organisations that enabled them to be both the parent and the professionals they wanted to be.

Read more stories of dad’s in lockdown here;

Dads and the opportunities to come from the pandemic

Categories
Flexible Working

How Dads Can Get More Flexibility At Work?

Requesting Flexible Working

What is a dad to do if his employer does not have a culture that accepts men have families and caring responsibilities outside of the workplace? While times are changing, this is still a major issue. It’s not always an easy one to address because it can involve full-scale cultural change, but I’ve put forward a few ideas that fathers in the workplace may find helpful.

It Starts With The Application Process

Let’s start at the very beginning. Before you even apply for a job, look closely at the job advert. Does it make any mention about flexible working being encouraged? Prior to completing the application form, quiz the recruitment consultant about the company’s family friendly policies or call the HR department and have a quick chat.

Ask if the organsation pays paternity and maternity leave benefits at the same rate. Ask if it has written shared parental leave and paternity leave policies. If the answer to either of these questions is “no” then it’s a big warning sign.

I’ll tell you a story to demonstrate my point. I once went for a job interview and asked what benefits came with the job. I was being sly and testing the culture of the organisation. My eldest daughter was only one year old at the time and I was hoping the manager heading the panel would tell me about childcare vouchers or mention some family-friendly benefit or policy.

Instead he looked at his colleague, turned back to me and said: “You get a salary.”

It was a dreadful, condescending answer. It was immediately clear to me this manager was a dinosaur and that I could expect nothing in terms of balancing work and family. I wasn’t too upset when I didn’t get the job!

Flexible Working And Shared Parental Leave (SPL) Are Your Legal Right.

Do not think your employer is doing you a favour by agreeing to your request for SPL or flexible working. A lot of people, especially men, make this mistake. Remember, SPL is your legal right. Your right to request flexible working is also enshrined in law.

Be polite and put forward a strong business case. Look around your organisation and highlight examples where other people have worked flexibly or taken SPL. If a precedent has been set, it’s hard for your employer to turn you down.

It may also be that you’re merely the first man to ask for SPL or flexible working. You may feel nervous but discover that you’re blazing a trail and knocking at an open door!

Seek Support From Your Trade Union

If you are a trade union member and your workplace recognises your union, speak to your union representative. Managers are usually reluctant to pick fights with unions, especially over issues like SPL or flexible working which have a legal framework behind them.

Approaching things this way also means you are not on your own. You’ll have support from an organisation used to dealing with employee / employer disputes and successfully mediating between them.

Engage With Any Women’s Groups

If you are stuck with a management team that isn’t interested in your flexible working request or is doing all it can to put you off applying for SPL; seek help from any women’s groups within the workplace.

If there isn’t a women’s interest group (they are more common among big employers) try and find someone on the Staff Council or staff consultative body with an interest in issues affecting women in the workplace.

This may not sound like an obvious thing to do, but these groups can be incredibly powerful allies. They are in a strong position to point out to management that failing to provide male employees the same benefits and rights as women has a negative impact on both genders.

I’ll give you an example. I know of a FTSE 100 company that introduced equal paternity leave and pay because its women’s group campaigned for it. The group members recognised it was unfair men didn’t have the same rights and spoke up for their male colleagues. The result was a huge uptake in men taking SPL.

Be Clear About What You Are Requesting

Be clear about what you are requesting. If you are requesting to work from home two days a week, say so. If you plan to take four months SPL starting in March, make that clear. Your employer is much more likely to agree to a clear request as it’s easier form them to plan accordingly.

If you simply request to work flexibly or say you want to take SPL but you’re not sure what date you wish to take it from or for how long for, you can’t be too surprised if the answer comes back as a “no.” After all, how is an employer supposed to plan for such circumstances?

One other piece of advice is be flexible. You might want to work from home two days a week. But, what if your employer looks at your request and offers you three days home working every fortnight? Could you make that work? Be prepared to compromise as both you and your employer have different agendas.

Fathers In The Workplace Toolkit

Finally, if you think your employer might be receptive to the idea, introduce them to the Fathers in the Workplace Toolkit. This free resource is put together by researchers from the University of Birmingham.

It’s aim was to give employers and HR professionals easy-to-implement ideas that could make a workplace more father-friendly. You can read about it yourself – Fathers In The Workplace Toolkit. It suggests every employer should have a Fatherhood Champion. This would be someone who works flexibly and can be consulted about their experiences and explain its importance. It also says workplace parenting groups should be inclusive of fathers and suggests employees with children should have a ‘parenting passport.’ This is a document outlining a staff member’s home situation, shared privately between managers. It will help managers understand the needs of staff as they progress through an organisation.

Be Brave

We’ve all been in the position of asking for something from a boss, knowing the answer might not be the one we want. Employers have years of experience dealing with mums who work flexibly or go on extended leave following the birth of a child.

It’s a relatively new thing for both employers and employees when a man asks for SPL or to work flexibly. The only way it can be normalised is if men ask for SPL or flexi-working. The culture of your organisation may not have caught up with the times. The onus is on us men to bring about that change so be brave and speak to your boss. Oh, one final thing, very best of luck!

Interested in how covid is changing our working culture then you may want to read – Changes To Working Culture During Lockdown

Maybe you’d like to hear more about our DaddyJobs author John Adams.

Categories
Flexible Working

Why DaddyJobs.co.uk Has Re-launched At The Right Time

I am so excited to have joined the DaddyJobs.co.uk team. I have a long and personal interest in promoting flexible working and I think the website has re-launched at just the right time. 

Before I get into why I think DaddyJobs.co.uk has re-launched at the perfect time, allow me to introduce myself and explain why I am so interested in flexible working. It’s a long and personal story, but I’ll give you the highlights.

My Flexible Working Story

Way back in 2011 I was your typical, full-time working dad. My wife and I had the one young daughter at the time called Helen (our second daughter, Izzy, arrived a year later).

My employer gave me a certain degree of flexibility, but I didn’t feel I could properly balance work and family. Things came to a head when I was told it had been noticed I had missed a few meetings that had been put in my diary  when I would typically be on the nursery run (either very first thing in the morning or very late in the afternoon).

I worked in a department of 80 people yet I could count the married people on the fingers of one hand and even fewer had children. My face didn’t fit any longer, so I suggested to my wife that I leave full-time work, reduce Helen’s nursery hours and concentrate on looking after our daughter and running the family home. 

When I raised this with Mrs Adams, it didn’t get the warmest reception. We had a huge row in Pizza Express in central Glasgow. After a short while she came round to the idea and we haven’t looked back.

I initially took a part-time job with a local charity a few rungs down the career ladder. When Helen started school, I needed even greater flexibility so even that job became unviable.

This is where my career path, until this point in a terminal, downward spiral, took an interesting turn. For a few years I had been writing a blog called Dadbloguk.com. It followed my journey as a man who ran the household and “held the babies.”

I was now a stay at home dad with no income, but I did have a well-established blog. I wanted to contribute financially to the family and so the natural thing to do was to try and make money from Dadbloguk.com and so that’s what I did.

Fast forward to 2020 and blogging has taken me everywhere from Canada to Australia and I’ve interviewed Hollywood greats including Michael Douglas and Steve Carell. I won Best Dad Blog at the 2019 Online Influence Awards and Dadbloguk sits at No1 on the Vuelio Top UK Daddy Blogger list.

A real highlight happened just a few weeks ago when I was appointed a LinkedIn Changemaker. I am one of seven people LinkedIn has chosen to promote change in the modern workplace. Recognising the issues I had in the past, I am campaigning to make flexible working more widely available to mums, dads and carers.

I don’t tell you any of this to boast, but to make a point. Working for myself is hard, very hard. It would be much easier to have an employer and everything that comes with it: Sick pay, holiday pay, employer pension contributions and so on.

Instead I have withdrawn from the workforce. The skills and experience I have, I am keeping to myself by working for my own company and fitting my work around my family commitments. My skills and experience have not been available to an employer for years because I could not get the flexibility I felt I needed to balance work and family.

Flexible Working Is For Women And Men

The other point I’d make is that I am both a man and Generation X. When most people think of flexible working, they associate it with mums or women with caring responsibilities.

As for being Gen X, I stand out for leaving the workforce. It’s not unheard of for men of my age to leave a job because of a lack of flexibility, but it is rare.  It’s a different picture with younger men. 

Younger guys will think nothing of leaving a job if they can’t balance work and family. According to the DaddiLife Millennial Dad at Work report, a third of Millennial men left their job within a year of becoming a father because it didn’t offer the flexibility they wanted, while a further third were actively looking for a new job.

That is the great thing about DaddyJobs.co.uk. There is increasing demand from men for flexible working. It is meeting the needs of men who actively want to balance work and family life. 

The Impact of COVID-19

I’ve somehow got this far without mentioning the seismic impact of COVID-19!  Over recent months huge numbers of men have been working from home. 

The signs are that flexible, remote working could be here to stay for two reasons. Firstly, many employers simply cannot have all their employees back in the workplace because of social distancing guidelines. Secondly, everyone’s got used to working from home and very few people want to go back to the office full time.

I think DaddyJobs.co.uk has re-launched at just the right time to capitalise on this. Men increasingly want flexible working and COVID-19 has massively shifted a whole chunk of the workforce in that direction. 

In the months to come I look forward to exploring the various issues men face when wanting to work flexibly. I hope to encourage more reluctant men to accept that flexible working is ideal for them and their families. 

Finally and most importantly, I wish you the very best with your job hunt.