This is a subject which is still very much ongoing, and fills most employers with dread. It is the law in the U.K that a flexible working request must be considered, but it is not the law that the employer must grant the request, or even go some way towards meeting you in the middle, IF they can prove ‘business reasons’ why you can’t possibly be given your request. I have found this out the hard way, and this is still currently affecting my family circumstances.
I work in Education, yet I am not a Teacher. I do have a large caseload of students who I look after pastorally, however, my commitment and dedication to my job was never on the agenda to change or become less manageable by submitting the request. In fact, I could prove quite the opposite about how manageable it actually is, and I have bags of reasons and evidence to prove it. My employer however would argue differently.
I won’t go into the ins and outs of what happened, i’ll save that for another post. I can tell you it’s been one hell of a year though, and i’ll tell you some about my reasons for the request and why it is SO important to me as a Mum.
I returned to work after having my Son after 6 months quite simply because I couldn’t afford to take any longer. Both my partner and I work full time, and it was not an option financially for me to reduce my hours to part-time, and this is still the case. We have been lucky in the respect that our Mother’s agreed they would look after our son in the day, while we both worked which was a massive relief, it was something we discussed with them before becoming pregnant so it’s not like there was no thought behind our actions. There was absolutely no way of affording childcare fees, so if we didn’t have them, we’d have probably been screwed and childless!
So anyway, although the working full-time with drop offs and pick ups has essentially been manic, as a parent I guess it’s just something you do, and you manage. Before I knew it, my boy was coming up to school age, and so I had another set of decisions to make. Use my 15 hours free Nursery place, or full-time Nursery School which would also be free? It was a no brainer really, he is a bright kid, he needed his mind stimulating, and if I opted for the 15 hours free, I would still be in a position of finding childcare options for him for the other hours we were in work.
My Mum is in her late 60’s, so although in good health, I was quite conscious about her looking after my child when really she should be enjoying these later years of her life and doing things for herself. My partner’s Mum is not in the best of health, she has ongoing serious health issues, they have never hindered her being a wonderful Grandparent, but again this has tugged on my conscience, and I have felt guilty about the amount of hours she has actually cared for our child, when there has simply been no other options. They are our family, but it doesn’t mean they should automatically be the ones to step up all of the time, if there are other workable options.
I have been employed almost 8 years with my current employer. Never for one moment did I think there would be any massive issues about asking for some help. I mean, it’s education, every child matters right? Not so, if it’s your own it seems. My request involved starting an hour later and finishing an hour later. This way, I would not be reducing my hours or my finances, and they get to keep me full time. What I don’t get to do in the first hour, I can make up for in the day right? Wrong!
I had no choice but to submit the request because we had opted for full time school for our child. This meant he started school at 8:55am and I had to be in work for 8:30am. You see my problem here? My partner left for work at 6:45am. Our Parents do not live very close, my Mum doesn’t drive, although my partner’s Mum does drive, it was still a fair drive to expect her to come every morning to drop our child off at school. There are no immediate friends and family in the vicinity who could help either, so I found myself in a very complex situation indeed. I thought that by negotiating my morning hours, it would at least allow me to take my child to school and be even a little involved as a parent. Although picking him up was out of the question, this at least went someway to solving our problem, and allowing me some time to do what I think should be a given for any parent and child. I looked into Breakfast Club, and there isn’t one at my child’s school. I live in an area where a large amount of parents perhaps don’t work and they can take their children to school. I even looked privately, again I became unstuck as there was no provision, and if there were, our finances would have been stretched further than was manageable, but I would have found a way if at least given the option.
As you can gather, my employer refused the request. I offered to drop the hour off and lose salary, but again this was denied. I appealed, the appeal never got to appeal because they felt everything had been dealt with correctly and above board. They knew and know the ins and outs of my situation and why I am struggling so much, and I have fought this all the way. But my point is, why should I have to fight? Why is it not my right to be able to take my child to school if there are in all honesty no other options? School is mandatory, if he was off school unauthorised absent, I could be fined. So why is it not mandatory that I am given some help, when simply I have exhausted all options?
This battle has been year long, it is almost time where I can legally submit another flexible working request. You can only submit one flexible working request every 12 months. I even said I was happy for the request to be reviewed, and if it wasn’t working, then fine. At least we would have tried.
I am exhausted of fighting, but how can I give up? Why should I be forced out of a job which I love and I am good at, because my employer won’t even at least go someway to mediating with me?
If you can tell me your experiences or at least identify with me, i’d love to hear it. We need to stand together or nothing will change. Ever.