It seems you can’t pick up a newspaper or watch a current affairs program without someone talking about childcare, working parents, or flexible working hours and practice. So what’s the drill? Well quite simply, there is no easy answer.
Ask any working parent and they will tell you that to start work at 8.30 your child is in care around 7.30 and to work back late means that they often do not get the chance to say good night. Then there is the other related problems of getting meals on the table. If you get home at 7pm then dinner will be ready about 7.45 and bingo the kids are now going to bed quite late.
Now there are some employers who claim to have it right and say they have family friendly practices. These employers win awards, have articles published about how they are ‘helping balance work and family’ but scratch the surface you you get quite a different picture.
It seems that family friendly practices are reserved for those who are less senior in the company. You see the CEO couldn’t live without his PA being available every day or at short notice to stay late. Or the head of department or director of a section needs to be able to work when and how the CEO dictates. So herein lies the problem. We have educated women, who have climbed the corporate ladder, had their children later in life and want to work in fulfilling senior roles. They just want to do it in family friendly hours.
Do we really want to lose this talent from organisations? It seems anecdotally, that a large number of women just simply get retrenched and with a new baby to care for they accept the package they are offered and leave. It seems some just take a different position in the organisation in order to maintain some type of employment and at times these new positions come with less money. So while we know this is discrimination, there appears to be little that can be done about it. Comments such as ‘I don’t want to be seen as a trouble maker’ and ‘I don’t have the energy to fight it’ are common place around the ‘mothers’ circle’.
Another problem seems to be the direct manager. It does not seem to matter if there are organisational policies in place the direct manager appears to be able to make them work or fail for the return to work employee.
Let me know your thoughts. It is time for organisations to pay more than lip service to family friendly practices. You can email me for a confidential review.