HR needs to champion the cause of flexible working

I have just read Lynne Copp’s letter regarding working parents (Personnel Today, 22 March). Her story of the three-year-old who was left on the nursery doorstep because her mother was pressurised to stay on at work and arrived late to collect her, sent a shiver through my spine. As the mother of a baby who attends nursery while I go to work, this story obviously struck a chord with me.

As a manager on a reasonable salary, the lower statutory maternity pay (SMP) rate per week is less than a single day’s normal pay. This in itself raised the issue of arguing for an income-related SMP, as opposed to the flat rate – but that is another matter.

After four months on maternity leave, the SMP began to have a financial impact, and I knew that I would have to return to full-time work.
The cost of a full-time nursery place is extremely expensive, and not much less than my husband’s income. Rather than giving up work altogether, he managed to convince his employer to let him work part-time. Our son now goes to nursery three days a week and my husband looks after him for two.

Although this is not the ‘traditional’ norm, it is a situation that is becoming increasingly common. Thankfully, my husband’s employer was sensible enough to see that this was a better alternative to losing his knowledge, expertise and training.

I now realise that far more could be done to encourage women to return to work and balance career and family life. A staggered return to work would be far more effective than the current arrangement, which allows one year off that we simply cannot afford to take.

Returning to work early would create more scope to work flexibly on normal pay, or a decent percentage of it – the cost of which could be offset by the SMP we have not received.

Staff and employers should have more choices in what suits individual circumstances and business needs. I believe, now more than ever, that it’s up to HR professionals to be creative and convince employers that there are far more effective ways of managing the ‘burden’ of working parents.

Sharon Summers
HR manager, Webbs of Wychbold

Comments are closed.