Nov
02
2007

Working mums and the work/life balancing act

Flexible working patterns for men and women have increased in recent years, with over six million people in employment now enjoying flexible working across the UK. An innovative software solutions firm in Aberdeen has realised the importance of deploying flexible working. Codify allows Lisa Thomson, a young mum of two, to fit her working hours around her home life.

A Government survey in 2005, found that 22% of parents with children under six years, requested to work flexibly with 81% of these requests being fully or partly accepted by employers. Requests were significantly more common in women than men with over a third of full time working mums making a request for some form of flexible working.

Research commissioned by the Women and Equality unit in 2003 found that the demand for flexible working coincided with a rise in mothers returning to work after having children. For many women, coping with the challenges of juggling a career and family life wouldn't be possible without being able to negotiate some sort of flexible working hours. Parents working long hours may find it more difficult to meet their children's needs. More flexible working arrangements, can allow additional family time and aid working mothers in the work/life balancing act.

The flexible working law gives employees with children (under the age of six or with a disabled child under 18) the right to request flexible working hours and places a duty on employers to seriously consider this request. It is designed to help the employer and employee find a mutually agreeable resolution. However, as this law only gives employees the right to request flexible working, employers may reject a request for flexible working provided they give a valid business reason.

As well as the obvious benefits flexible working brings for working mothers, the benefits for employers are also significant. According to a recent Microsoft report there is a serious IT skills shortage in the UK and only 1 in 5 of the UK IT workforce is female. This means many IT companies aren't making the most of available flexible working opportunities. More companies should adopt policies like Codify in order to help with recruitment.

Flexibility in the workplace can also increase continuity and loyalty, as staff who may have otherwise have left, can negotiate hours they can manage. Mark Griffiths, Managing Director of Codify says "Companies shouldn't discourage flexible working because they feel it may affect business productivity, in actual fact, it assisted Codify in recruiting an additional member of staff who otherwise would not have chosen to join Codify.

Mother of two Lisa Thomson, works full time at Codify as a Project Manager and successfully manages her job and family life through working flexibly.

Lisa comments, "Being a mother with two children under the age of four means that I actually juggle two jobs and my life can be quite hectic, especially in the mornings! My days are quite regimented from the time I get up until the kids go to bed - routine is of paramount importance. Codify have been really understanding of the fact I am a mother and allow me to work flexibly to suit both my work and family needs. I work a 35 hour week, slightly less hours than the other employees which allows me to finish a little earlier each evening. Flexible working is great for me as it means I am out of the office in time to pick the kids up."

Lisa continues, "I think it's extremely important that employers give parents the opportunity to negotiate flexible working hours. If I couldn't finish work a little earlier every day, I wouldn't be able to manage my home life as well as I do. There are a number of benefits it brings for both employee and employer. In my case, being able to negotiate the hours I work, has made me feel more valued as an employee and has aided me in having more time to spend with my family.

Mark Griffiths, Managing Director of Codify, discusses the advantages flexible working has brought to the company, "Introducing a flexible working policy makes good business sense and benefits everyone, including employer, employees and their families as we have found working with Lisa.

Flexible working policies can easily be implemented in companies large and small. In theory, most businesses can accommodate a flexible working policy, although it will depend on the type of company and the industry it's in. However, much also lies in the employer being open to the benefits it can bring for everyone involved."

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