Flexible working can mean an end to career progression

As an experienced HR professional who has not worked full time for 19 years, I read your article ‘Career fear makes mockery of flexible working legislation’ (Personnel Today, 6 May) with great interest.

When I reduced my hours to 18 per week following my first maternity leave in 1989, I worked as an HR manager in central London. At that time there was no legislation to protect me and I had to rely on the goodwill and pioneering attitude of the chief executive.

When he retired in 2002, following my second maternity leave, I had nobody in the company to support me. The remaining directors made it very difficult for me to continue in my role, and I was faced with the option of returning full time or resigning. In May 1993 I eventually decided to resign and become a full-time mother.

It then took me almost 10 years to find another suitable part-time role at a senior level in HR. From 1993 to 2002 I saw only two opportunities in my local area and although I was shortlisted for both of these positions I was unsuccessful. Therefore I decided to train as a volunteer for my local Citizens Advice Bureau and become a governor at my children’s primary school.

All of this work was unpaid but at least it enabled me to keep my HR skills up to date. These unpaid positions clearly helped me to secure my current job-share post as senior HR adviser in 2002.

However, my decision to work part time or not at all since 1989 has meant that my career has stood still. If I wish to seek promotion either here or elsewhere I realise that I will have to work full time. Although my children are now teenagers, part-time working remains my preferred option for work-life balance reasons.

I can, therefore, see exactly why people are reluctant to opt for formal flexible working arrangements. If they choose this route, they run the risk of being trapped in their jobs until employers start offering more opportunities for flexible working at senior levels.

Senior HR adviser

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