Flexible working – good news for dads

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flexible working
An alternative interpretation of flexible working. Photo credit: Mollerjoakim

The inevitable has at long last happened. As from yesterday, anyone can apply for flexible working, a right that was previously the preserve of those with caring or childcare commitments. I’m hoping this right will be taken up by fathers seeking to share the childcare burden and spend more time with their children.

I’ve always been very lucky and worked for employers that have been flexible and tried to meet my needs as a parent. My mistake was to work in media and communications, an industry that, by its nature, deals with crisis events that can happen at any time of day.

As such, my employers could only bend so far. This was one of the reasons I left my job to become the kids’ main carer. The stress on my existence and my family’s was just too much.

I think men have always felt their careers would be damaged if they requested compressed hours, the odd day working at home or to work from home full time. We all know that women are simply expected to look after the children. It’s such a desperately outdated view and I find it depressing it still holds strong. Now the right has been very publicly enshrined in law, dads have every reason to approach their employers and make clear they also have childcare commitments.

I personally think it is in the interests of employers to be flexible. With more and more women working, families need the flexibility. It’s essentially a staff retention issue; want to keep good staff, don’t make them suffer when they have the audacity to procreate.

What do you think? Is this a positive move, or is it just a bit of fluffy PR from a Government wanting easy votes? Also, what’s you experience of asking for flexible working?

Photo reproduced under Creative Commons agreement.

2 thoughts on “Flexible working – good news for dads”

  1. I don’t see how it was any different previously for dads to ask for flexible working as surely it should be the same as for women – who let’s face it, probably feel a lot more penalised in the workplace. If a company is inflexible, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a man or woman who asked for it (although maybe more surprising for a man).

    I’ve been lucky – in my old job I was able to work slightly shorter hours, and a morning at home to allow for my long commute/childcare (I have a farmer husband who moans about doing an occasional nursery drop off – and usually palms it off on his mum on the odd time I’m working out of the office/travelling). But ultimately I do think it led to me being penalised over other members of the team – because I couldn’t take on even more than I did when I worked full time.

    My new job (although contracted) is not for profit and so flexible it’s unbelievable. Their full time hours are only 35 hours a week, and because my commute’s only 15 minutes max, I’ve got more hours in the day to play with. I can start earlier on the days N’s in day nursery, then on nursery school days I finish early one day, and start at normal time – I can still work a full time week. But what amazed me was how many people (with older children – it grown up or teens, and without kids) work flexibly.

    Compressing hours is a norm to get extra days off in the month, shorter days, part time, working from home. To be honest, it makes life hard getting things done if you need to work in a team, and the inconsistency across teams is hard (lots depends on your manager). They did realise at one point that all requests had been accepted so had to put a stop to formal contracted changes unless you had children or wanted a long term change. Most have informal flexibility which works better as you can change it as and when needed.

    It’s not going to work for all business, and I do worry that if all the requests are given for people who don’t have childcare needs, then that might prevent people who do need flexibility from being allowed it. It also relies on customers who can work with it, and good calendar management so you know when you can access people who work flexibly. But it’s definitely going to be beneficial for businesses who manage to offer it in terms of attracting the best people who might not be able to work in more inflexible companies.

    1. It’s a fair comment you make at the start – strictly speaking men with childcare commitments (i.e. fathers) have always had the right to request flexible working. It just hasn’t been the done thing. I would like to look positively on this change and hope the fact this point has now been made very publicly (…that man have the right to request flexible working and an employer can’t dismiss it our of hand) will lead to more men doing it.

      I am always sympathetic to employers. There will of course be an impact on them, although I tend to think many could do more to embrace flexible work practices. Technology makes it much easier to work flexibly and I’m not sure that all employers have grasped that, or the fact there are huge savings be made with reduced premises costs.

      Thanks for commenting and glad to hear you’ve had a positive experience with your new job.

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