Category Archives: Flexibility

3 skills working parents and their managers must develop

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Working parents need 3 core skills to ‘thrive’ at work and at home: Adaptability, Flexibility and Resilience. 

We’ve all heard the expression “Got a job to do? Give it to a busy person (aka: mum).” But just how much can one busy ‘hands on’ mum or dad handle before the juggling balls begin to fall and bounce all over the place? How is your corporate culture contributing to the success or failure of your working parents’ ability to respond to the ever changing needs of their family and job?

Organisations who strive to help their people achieve their maximum potential ‘get it.’ It means providing employees with the necessary tools, support and training to be Adaptive, Flexible and Resilient to cope with the ups and downs of life being a ‘worker’ and a ‘parent’. Here’s some tips to help your organisation build resilience, adaptability and flexibility amongst your working parents: Continue reading

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How Australian Businesses Can Better Support Working Dads

Father And His Baby Daughter Grocery Shopping.

These days, working while raising children is increasingly common. According to the ABS Survey of Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, 62% of coupled parents work, while 60% of single parents work. What’s more, 90% of dads with children under 15 are employed, meaning the vast majority of Australian fathers are juggling work and parenting commitments in tandem. Here are just some of the ways Australian businesses should be looking to create a supportive environment for working dads.

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Flexible working – what it takes to be successful (A case study)

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Productivity in the UK has come under the spotlight following news that the nation’s GDP per hour worked is lower now than it was pre-recession. In fact, the UK’s productivity is falling further behind that of its European neighbours.

To help tackle this trend, chancellor George Osborne published the report Fixing the Foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation, which sets the agenda for a national productivity drive.

Despite this, the real ‘game changer’ in the fight to recover the British economy will be the measures businesses themselves can take to enable their employees to be more productive.

Enabling employees to be more effective when they’re in and out of the office and offering them flexible working options are just some of steps that businesses have taken to help to increase productivity and growth over the last five to ten years. In addition, last year the government gave every employee the right to request flexible working from their employer. However, an overall uplift in UK productivity is yet to be realised and the adoption of flexible working is not widespread.

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Reducing re-entry anxiety: how employers can help new parents

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As a business owner, I understand the challenges that come along with keeping employees motivated and engaged at work. Here at Kids & Company we put a lot of effort into making our employees feel supported, appreciated and secure. This becomes especially important when employees go on maternity leave and are away for extended periods of time.
When the Canadian Government increased parental leave to 35 weeks a decade ago, it seemed great; but the reality is, 35 weeks away is a very long time – long enough to lose touch with colleagues and friends, to feel alienated and awkward when faced with changes like employee turnover.  According to Statistics Canada (2014), only 29 per cent of parents with children under 18 are currently employed, proving that returning to work isn’t as simple as falling back into routine.

Employee engagement is a daily challenge for those in HR. They understand that most employees want to maintain a connection with their workplace while on maternity leave, and know that they play a key role in keeping this connection alive.

Losing great employees is more than a HR issue. The average cost of replacing employees can be anywhere from 40 to 400 per cent of the annual salary for that position, making turnover a huge expense from a financial perspective, so it’s worthwhile to invest in easing the transition from home back to work, rather than lose resources.

But how do they do it?

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Gender Equality in the Workplace: The Role of Paid Parental Leave

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recent article by senior Sydney Morning Herald writer and new mum, Jessica Irvine, sparked our interest.

In her piece, Jessica proposed that we cannot have true gender equality until we have true shared responsibility for raising children. She challenged the labels of ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ carer enshrined in the current Paid Parental Leave (PPL) legislation as one of the roots of the problem.  Perhaps more concerning is, that as a society, we don’t realise the unintended negative consequences to gender equality when we use the terms ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ care giver.

“In fact, our entire paid parental scheme is predicated on the idea that there should exist a ‘primary’ and therefore a ‘secondary’ care giver. Mums and dads are forced to decide in the first few weeks which will be which. The idea that duties should be shared equally from the start doesn’t even compute in the current system.”

Jessica Irvine, SMH

Over the years we’ve seen countless times the effect of being assigned ‘primary’ carer has on women, unfortunately, often to their career peril. Many feel they must accept this assumed ‘lead position’ or ‘centre controller’ because it will ensure their family stays just that – a family.

Granted, some women want to stay at home for as long or longer than their PPL permits but what of the women who want to return to work and really share the caring role with their spouse?  Many feel the pressure to stay at home – pressure that comes, in part, from a system designed to commit them to the role as the ‘primary’ carer – which can be permanently, for those who find breaking back in impossible down the track.

Current legislation allows the ‘primary carer’ to transfer their PPL entitlement to their partner if they meet the eligibility criteria. This still implies either one spouse/partner must be the primary carer. What’s more the ‘Dad and Partner Pay’ of 2 weeks paid leave to care for a child overtly implies that mum will be the ‘primary carer’ to take PPL – Dad, well, he’ll just take a couple of weeks off and be back at work! What stereotypes does this reinforce about men and women’s role raising children and the proportion of time men vs. women ‘should’ have off whilst raising a family. And what if you are in a gay relationship – two fathers or two mothers? It forces the couple to choose – one is more of a ‘real’ parent than the other.

To be eligible for Parental Leave Pay, you need to be the primary carer of a newborn or recently adopted child. The primary carer is the person who most meets the child’s physical needs. This is usually the birth mother of a newborn or the initial primary carer of an adopted child. You are considered to be the primary carer from birth, even if your child is in hospital.

Eligibility for Paid Parental Leave Pay, Centrelink

Ask any parent – raising a child is a blessing and a challenge. But consider that imposing one parent with the weighty label of ‘primary’ carer carries with it an assumed unequalness that can be (and more often than not is) interpreted as one parent having more responsibility (i.e. more tasks, more decision making authority, more sacrifice) and implies that the other ‘secondary’ carer is somehow less important or has a lesser role to play. Every able parent is equally responsible for the upbringing and well being of their child. Period.

What if PPL redefined all parents as ‘carers’ of their child rather than as ‘primary’ or ‘secondary’ carer and what if they were equally encouraged to access paid parental leave within the first 12 months? How would that change the state of play in the culture of workplaces? How would it change the minds of men and women in a society that still pays women less for the same work and struggles to find female leaders?

Would parents feel more empowered to step up and be the mum or dad they want to be? Would women feel more empowered to make life and career choices that were important to them instead of feeling forced to make sacrifices (for stopping paid work) or carrying the guilt (for choosing to work)? We know from various studies that gender equality at work leads to a multitude of societal, economic and personal benefits. A report released last month by the McKinsey Global Institute highlights this fact blatantly: “If every country saw women reach parity with men on workforce participation, global GDP would increase $28 trillion”.  And this: “More than half (54%) of the potential increase in GDP can come from increasing women’s workforce participation.”

There is a very plain bias here and one we’d like to see change before the next round of PPL legislation is enacted, for the sake of all Australians – this generation and those to come.  The inequalities at work (we still have a 18% gender pay gap in Australia) and home (women do 2.5 times more unpaid work than men) highlight why we need to address inequality at all levels of society. We need to discourage gender-based assumptions in every nook and cranny we can – from the laws we make to the colour of socks we feel we ‘ought’ to buy our new born. As my 4 year old said this morning: “some kids think blue is for boys and pink is for girls but I like blue and all colours are for everyone”.

In summary, and put simply, we propose the Government remove all gender references from the new Paid Parental Leave legislation. ‘Either parent/carer’ will suffice. Change starts with the individual, but when we have laws that reflect true equality (both parents, without bias, playing an equally active and important role as both carer and worker), we start to inspire and encourage every parent, working or not, to play a role in raising the next generation – equally. After all, it takes village to raise a child doesn’t it?

By: Emma Walsh

First published by Women’s Agenda

 

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5 things employers can do to help women re-enter the workforce

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The Mother’s Day budget announcement that parents would not be eligible for Paid Parental Leave from both the government and their employer was saddening to say the least. This counter-intuitive policy shows the government is disregarding research around the benefits of quality time in the first year where mothers can bond and establish breastfeeding with their child.

Apart from supporting campaigns to encourage the government to revisit their policy there is wider responsibility the business community should acknowledge. PPL combined with other programs to support and help retain staff, have real impacts on productivity and make employees happier and more engaged. These should be part of the push to address gender equity in the workplace and support working parents, contributing to the economy especially mothers. Here are 5 things businesses can consider:

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City Dad on taking extended paternity leave

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City Dad, Adrian Dyer, on taking extended paternity leave to put his family first, taking a step back and focusing on what’s really important

Adrian Dyer began his career in the Merchant Navy as a navigating officer. He came ashore in 2000 and has worked within the shipping industry in the City of London ever since. He is married with two children. Adrian blogs as City Dad, aiming to encourage dads to become familiar with their rights as regards paternity and parental leave, as well as flexible working.

Family man

I think I’ve always been a family man. In fact most of my family, my own dad in particular, is very family-oriented, as opposed to surrounding themselves with friends, for example. I have always loved being around my family and around the home. At one point in my career I even requested working from home as a permanent change to my contract (it seemed much preferable to commuting for two and a half hours each day!) but my suggestion was rejected.

Shifting the base of work and family

In 2009, after the birth of my son, I spent two weeks on paternity leave immediately after his birth and then disappeared off to work leaving my wife to carry on with the rest of her maternity leave alone. This didn’t seem fair for several reasons. First, I had it easy, sliding off to the office to sit around and drink cups of tea while dealing with a few emails and calls.

My wife, on the other hand, was rushing around all day with our little one. She did love her time at home but, especially as it was our first child, it wasn’t easy. “You’re not doing anything around the house,” she used to say and she was right, I wasn’t. How could I? I left for work before 7am and was back again shortly before 7pm. But what could I do to shift the balance of work and family?

Back in 2009, the answer was: not a lot. However, when my daughter was born in 2012, we had more options.

“How would you like to split my maternity leave with me this time?” my wife asked.

“What? Can we really do that?” I asked, surprised.

Extended paternity leave: How would I cope?

Luckily my wife works in HR so she was well aware that in 2011 the law changed to allow dads to take up to six months of the wife’s maternity leave as additional paternity leave, as long as she has taken at least the first six months and returned to work. How would that work financially? How would I cope looking after two kids? What would my boss say about that?! So many questions…

A few months out to spend quality time with the kids – taking a step back and thinking about what’s really important

What an amazing opportunity – a few months out to spend quality time with the kids. I’d really be putting my family first. I think sometimes we can get caught up in life and lose our sense of what is really important to us. We focus on salaries, bonuses, status, how many bedrooms we have, what sort of car we drive. Once in a while it’s worth taking a step a back and thinking about what’s really important to us.

So: how about taking additional paternity leave? Financially it would be OK. My wife was earning more than I did so her returning to work once her enhanced maternity pay ended made sense. In addition, I was lucky enough to have some savings which I could use to pay my own way during my four months of totally unpaid leave.

Looking after two kids: It couldn’t be that hard, could it?

Could I look after two kids? Well, it couldn’t be that hard, could it? And what would my boss say? I work in the City of London for a company founded in the 1800s with a very traditional work ethic, so I knew this was going to be tricky. The best approach I could come up with was to take my manager out to lunch, buy him a couple of beers and then hit him with it. I thought he might be more receptive after having sausages and mash and two pints of Old Wallop.

He was shocked at first and actually didn’t know if it was even possible, but once I emphasised the financial reasons behind my plan, it began to make more sense to him. Nevertheless, he asked me to check with HR. That turned out to be just a formality. So that was it. All set for four months “off”.

An amazing, family changing experience

How did it go? It was an amazing, family changing experience. The kids loved it, I loved it and my wife was ready to return to work and leave me in charge at home. It was hard work though and when I tell people I only went back to work for a rest I’m only half joking! It’s all go, but it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done and I’d do it again.

Everyone I spoke to was really supportive and, apart from my own manager’s initially hesitant reaction, I’ve received nothing but encouragement and support from friends, colleagues and people I have met. This also includes other mums I met who seemed to enjoy the novelty of having a dad around!

Spend as much time as possible with the kids as possible – they won’t want Dad around forever!

After my four months of paternity leave, the thought of going back to work and missing out on being with the family was a bit depressing. However, I managed to negotiate a four and a half day working week which has worked out really well. It has meant a pay cut, of course, but I think that kids are only young once so we have to do what we can to spend as much time as possible with them now as they won’t want Dad around forever!

More devoted employee

Work wise I’ve returned to exactly the same role and my job hasn’t been affected negatively in the slightest. I’d even go so far as to say it’s had a positive effect, as I think I’m a more devoted employee now and, due to the fact that my employer has allowed me to work flexibly, I’m more likely to stay where I am.

The next generation of men will be doing this a lot more than we do, so why not beat them to it?!

By: Adrian Dyer

Source: Womanthology

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Women in Leadership

Why the gap between policy & practice in flexible work is costing women their careers

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The last five years have seen an increase in comprehensive policiesproviding access to flexible work, but these policies are not being effectively employed in practice, according to new research. 

The University of Sydney Business School’s Women and Work Research Group has conducted a study involving in-depth interviews with employees and line managers about the implementation of the company’s flexible work policies – and the results were disappointing.

The study’s co-author Dr Rae Cooper told Women’s Agenda that the growth in strong flexible work policies, both at a company and a national level, in recent years is encouraging, but that it appears there is a disconnect between the way the policies are written and the way they are implemented

“We’ve seen more significant developments in policies surrounding access to flexible work in the last five years than we’ve ever seen before in Australia’s history. Governments and organisations have put a lot of effort into designing good policies for keeping women attached to the labour force after having children,” Dr Cooper said.

“But our study shows a dissonance between the policies’ intentions and their outcomes. We found that these policies are not being effectively borne out in practice and employees are not receiving the benefits they are entitled to.”

So if the policy framework has been developed and is theoretically effective, what is going wrong?

Dr Cooper says the disconnect between the policy and the practice is a result of a lack of awareness among both employees and managers about the how the policy it meant to operate.

“This means that managers are not offering employees the full benefits they are entitled to by the policy because the managers themselves do not have adequate information and training.”

“We spoke to employees in organisations with very strong flexible work policies who approached managers and were told, ‘we don’t do flexible work here’, when of course this was not the case.”

Dr Cooper said the effort put into developing sound policies is wasted if they are not properly understood by those operationalising them. This lack of understanding at manager level means that employees are missing out on flexible working arrangements that both national and organisational policies entitle them to.

“It is so important that companies have strong policies on flexible work, but they will not reap the benefits they are intended to if line managers are acting as gate keepers to those policies.”

Dr Cooper said employees’ lack of awareness of their own entitlements is also creating a barrier to access.

“We were very surprised at how low the levels of understanding of flexibility policies was among employees. We found that employees had a general understanding that they were entitled to ask for part time work, but they did not have an understanding of how these arrangements actually work in terms of things like pay, bonuses, workload and job design,” she said.

Dr Cooper said this has lead to employees asking for reduced hours, but failing to negotiate the broader implications of the change. She said employees need to be asking questions about what their new expected productivity and output would be, who would complete the extra work and how their new role would be designed.

“Failing to negotiate these implications often means that women ask for reduced hours, but feel under pressure to produce the same amount of work, so they just end up doing full time work and only receiving part time pay.”

This dissonance between policy and practice means women are often still sacrificing career progression for flexibility and according to Dr Cooper, this needs to change.

“We need to get rid of the idea that in order to work flexibly you have to sacrifice career success,” she said.

“Today in Australia we have the most highly educated female labour force in the world, and we owe it to those women, our society and our economy to not waste that talent.”

By: Lucia Osborne-Crowley

Source: Women’s Agenda

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