Karen Lomas
February 6, 2014

Flexible Work Arrangements

This ABC Radio National Life Matters discussion is interesting to anyone who is an employer, an employee looking for flexibility in their working hours, and couples/working mothers in particular, who would love there to be arrangements that facilitate the continuation of employment and reduce the stress and juggle of multi-tasking.

The commentary includes a discussion about the cost of hiring and training staff, and how disappointing it then is to see that person walk away from the job, upon starting a family for example, because of inflexible working conditions. I remember back in the 1990s the City of London was a very male, grey suited, 9-5 world-very few women existed among the ranks of the managers and executives. However I employed many female staff to serve lunches in the corporate boardrooms, and I also had a number of female management staff on my team. Sally, one very young newly married Assistant Manager became pregnant with her first child, and as far as my client and my boss (MD of the catering company) were concerned she was essentially off the team; it was considered close to impossible that she would contemplate returning at the end of her maternity leave.

I chatted to Sally and she made it clear that she would love to continue working part-time. “Ah well”, said the boss, “that’s that then”, washing his hands of her. But no, undetered I decided to put it to my client that one of our locations could be run with Sally working part-time hours so long as the Head Chef received some training in management skills in order to support her- he would then receive promotion to Chef/Assistant Manager. I knew this was going to make Chef jolly happy as we had already spoken, in his annual appraisal, about learning book-keeping, payroll and customer service skills. The grey-suited client was sceptical but willing to give it a go, and bingo, Sally was kept in the team and ultimately received further promotion to another client location. Chef then took over as Chef-Manager. Everyone benefited, not least myself as I did not have the recruitment and training costs that come with staff turnover. I also had a motivated team who felt supported in their career progression. Win, Win!!

You may not be in the position of either employing staff, or of considering parenthood just now, but at some point in your career these considerations may be a potential issue for you. Flexible working arrangements and even considerations of childcare provision help to keep women in the workforce; they are assets worth keeping :)


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