It’s 5:50am, your alarm is set for 8:15am. What could possibly happen? Well, those tiny feet and the shouts of “Mummy, mummy!” are soon heard. It’s tough being a working mother, especially with a partner who works shifts. It’s a juggling act with no rest.
Thankfully, I have an employer that gets just how much of a juggling act it can be. So I work 4 days a week with 2 days at home and 2 days in the office. It makes a massive difference.
Unfortunately, not all employers are quite so flexible. As an employment lawyer, I naturally see snapshots of employment where things have gone wrong, for example, where employers refuse to grant flexible working requests even though the requests appear totally acceptable.
I have come across a recent report about how working families are managing the balance between work and family life. The report is only 10 pages long and the statistics are very neatly displayed – have a read here: https://www.workingfamilies.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Modern_Families_Index_2020_Summary-Report_FINAL.pdf
The statistics do suggest that things are looking up – at least, when comparing 2015 to today. For example, there is a greater percentage of working parents who said that they feel confident discussing family-related issues with their employer (rising from 47% to 55%).
However, (although there was an increase from 2015) only 51% of working parents surveyed feel that flexible working is a genuine option for women. Employers need to start genuinely respecting flexible working rather than paying lip service to their policies. Law firms are particularly bad – they seem to have a “bums on seats” culture whereby if you’re not visible then you are assumed to be slacking in some way and overlooked.
However, the report also states that more than a third of parents admitted to lying about their family-related responsibilities that get in the way of work, which makes for depressing reading. In 2020, are some employers really so blinkered about this issue that employees have to resort to lying? Er, yes it would seem so! And more than a third working parents admitted to pretending to be sick to meet their family commitments.
So, although the UK is making progress, it appears to be slow progress with still a long way to go in terms of attitudes towards what is, let’s face it, an immutable fact: lots of employees have young children that they are responsible for alongside their demanding paying jobs. A little flexibility goes a very long way to making this manageable.
In the meantime, I’d best get an early night to catch up on some sleep to be up bright and early…clearly I have no need to set my alarm these days!