05 Sep 2022

New school year marks the return to the same old work patterns for parents. Is it time for a change?

As children head back for the new school year in September, Adrian Lewis, Director at Activ People HR urges more employers to offer flexible working as a way to support working parents and prevent them quitting.

This comes amid a chronic worker shortage with the latest figures from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC)  showing 1.85 million active job postings in the last week of July, with figures having slowly but steadily risen since mid-June[i].

Adrian says, “Flexible working is something working parent’s value as it can help them manage childcare responsibilities and the school run. Having more flexibility in their role, especially over start and end times enables them to better organise their working day around these commitments which can ease the stress that parents can feel.”

“But whilst there has been a move towards hybrid working following the pandemic, employers often still expect workers to be at their desks for set hours and allow little flexibility in terms of when people are working. For those in lower income brackets this is even more acute and they are less likely to be able to work flexibly.”

“The end result can be stressed out workers, who struggle on a daily basis, impacting both their productivity and their wellbeing. This isn’t sustainable long term and can lead people to move jobs to a more child friendly employer or even quit work altogether.”

Data this year from the 2022 Modern Families Index Spotlight[ii] showed that almost four in 10 working parents (38%) plan to look for a new job in the next 12 months. Reasons include their employer being unsympathetic to childcare needs and not committed to providing support for family life in the longer term.

Another report from work-life balance charity Working Families and coaching organisation Talking Talent[iii] found that although there has been an overall increase in the number of parents working flexibly in the UK since 2019, it was higher earners (over £60k) and those in knowledge-based industries who are most likely to be working flexibly, leaving many parents on lower incomes and in ‘place-based’ roles behind.

Adrian adds, “Working flexibly can come in many guises from working at home and hybrid working to compressed hours, working part-time or flexitime and job sharing. All employees with at least 26 weeks service can make a request for flexible working and with employers having to work harder to recruit and retain workers it would be prudent for them to seriously consider if they can make it work for their staff.”

HR technology can support flexible working and make it easier for employers to implement it and ensure its business as usual. For instance absence management technology can keep track of where people are, who is working, who is not and where they will be working.”

“This visibility is vital so that the normal working day runs smoothly, clients or customers are not inconvenienced and there isn’t a dip in productivity. Other elements such as appraisals, training and timesheet software can ensure these are always kept up to date no matter where someone is working.”

“As children head back to school embracing flexible working could be a game changer for businesses. It could help them stand out as an employer of choice as well as boost the wellbeing, morale and productivity of existing staff.”

For more information on Activ People HR visit: www.activpeoplehr.co.uk.

[i] https://www.rec.uk.com/our-view/news/press-releases/labour-market-tracker-new-record-high-number-job-adverts-2022

[ii] https://hrnews.co.uk/huge-numbers-of-working-parents-looking-to-move-jobs-in-2022/

[iii] https://workingfamilies.org.uk/news/wfindex2022/