This week sees the start of the summer holidays for most school children. Business News Wales asks how businesses manage the demands of working parents? We also ask working parents for their views on juggling working life and children throughout the summer break.
Amy Hinchliffe | Marketing Executive
With the high cost and limited choice for parents to find formal childcare during the summer holidays, employers may find themselves faced with increased requests for parental leave during this period.
Eligible parents with children under the age of 18 have the legal right to take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave, and may take a maximum of 4 weeks’ leave in any year in relation to each eligible child. To qualify for parental leave, an employee must have at least one year of continuous service with his or her employer.
Absences due to parental leave can cause difficulties for employers and it is possible that an employee’s request of leave can be postponed for up to 6 months, if the employee’s absence from work would cause substantial disruption or harm to the employer’s business.
If an employer intends to postpone a request for parental leave then they must give written notice within 7 days to the employee stating the reason for the postponement and specifying alternative dates that the employee may take. However, it is important to note that employers cannot postpone parental leave if notice has been given that it is to commence on the placement of a child being adopted, or as soon as the child is born.
Alex Parr | Managing Director
Summer holidays are a tricky period for both businesses and working parents. Some parents can lean on friends, relatives or play schemes to help with childcare, but when this isn’t an option working parents find themselves using their precious annual leave.
Staggered annual leave is a common approach between parents, but it’s essential that businesses plan well in advance for this possibility. Managers need to be aware of how many employees are working parents and how many will request summer annual leave. This will ensure that the business continues to operate smoothly despite staff absence.
A popular approach, and one that we utilise regularly at Wolfestone, is to offer flexible hours to working parents. To ensure the success of flexible working, we find that constant communication between employer and employee is key. With both parties being aware of each other’s needs and showing a willing to compromise, the summer holidays can be a little less demanding.
Karen Thomas | Head of South Wales Corporate Team
The traditional 9 to 5 makes managing the Summer holidays difficult for many parents during the summer holidays. With the advent of technology though many parents find that they can be just as productive, if not more so, if they work closely with their employer.
Flexible working isn’t just about working from home. During school holidays it may be that there are more convenient ‘work’ locations that will enable parents to be more flexible.
Another option is flexible hours. Some parents will find that it suits them to work outside of the usual hours to help provide the flexibility that they need in the day and regular dialogue with their line managers will ensure that everyone is comfortable with the agreed approach.
Whilst many parents will have arranged annual leave during the holidays if this still isn’t sufficient it helps to talk to your employer about unpaid parental leave but as with all scenario’s an early dialogue with your line manager will help to ensure that the whole office continues to run smoothly and that future parents will continue to find employers and fellow work colleagues supportive.
Matt Sutton | Director
The reality is there is no specific provision in place for employers to follow when it comes to childcare. Finding a balance can be difficult for both the business and the employee, but there are many ways in which businesses can manage the demands of working parents. Flexibility is undoubtedly the key for ensuring that employees are able to manage childcare provisions, but also in ensuring that the business is able to retain valuable members of staff. Being a parent and arranging appropriate childcare can throw up many unexpected obstacles. An employer’s ability to work around their employee, where necessary, will ensure that employee feels valued. And let’s face it – childcare is expensive! One way in which an employer can look to alleviate this expense is by making provisions for the employee to work from home once or twice a week if possible. Breakfast and holiday clubs are also a great way for parents to work around working outside of usual 9pm to 5pm hours.
Laura Aherne | Senior Account Manager
I returned to Marketing last year following a short career break to have two children. Working around my children’s childcare arrangements was at the top of my priority list and I wanted to work for a likeminded business that understood the challenges faced when it comes to juggling work and family life.
Without Shed Marketing’s flexible approach to work, returning to work and managing school holidays would have been difficult for me. In my experience, there is a greater level of respect between employer and employee when working arrangements are flexible and fair to both parties. My working day doesn’t reflect the traditional 9am-5pm model but it still allows me to deliver client projects and maintain a work life balance.
Coastal Housing Group
Samantha Morgan | Head of HR & Corporate Services
Coastal has always recognised the difficulties that working parents face during holiday season and, as a result, we work closely with employees affected to find solutions that work for both parties. We consider ourselves a responsible employer and understand that rigidity creates consequences we want to avoid, such as our staff feeling stressed, last minute absences masked as illness or children left alone without any supervision.
To manage the school summer holiday season effectively, we offer our employees the opportunity to work compressed working weeks, shorter working hours or to adopt flexible working patterns that suit them and the colleagues they work closely with.
Our main focus is to work with our employees, to understand their needs and offer flexibility all year round. It becomes even more important during the school holidays, where planning ahead is essential to ensure the needs of our tenants are not compromised.
Graham Leslie Morgan | Managing Director
The long Summer School break is upon us! Here in 2017 it presents very much a bigger challenge for smaller Family businesses when it comes to accommodating the demands of working parents than it does for the bigger organisations employing 100’s of staff. Whilst most business owners want to support their loyal, hard working staff it is not always possible and accordingly all sorts of challenges arise within the business.
Where there are no guidelines or set processes in place to clarify what staff can expect things can often get quite fractious and there is no need for this to happen, especially if it impacts on the trading success of the business. Here in the 3rd week of July it is probably too late but having a plan in place is very much the answer.
The most effective businesses will have:
- Clear guidelines setting out which members of staff can take off which weeks throughout the year. I often find staff are asked to select their ‘holiday weeks for the year in January on some form of seniority preference basis.
- Ideally understand which members of staff could have problems with balancing childcare and see if solutions can be found that do not impact on the business.
- Consider flexible working during the Summer months if the type of business allows. Clearly across Wales this is boom time for the Tourism and Leisure Industry and they need a full complement of staff in place to support their customers.
- In some sectors ability to work remotely using modern technology can help with flexibility.
- Whilst it is ultimately the responsibility of the staff member to make sure they are available to work in line with their contract of employment if there are emergencies and staff get some flexibility they tend to pay that back over other parts of the year.
Bigger businesses will have very clear arrangements in place but usually find the demographics of their work force and the numbers involved allow them to apply flexibility where needed and they can absorb the associated pressures in their numbers.
Where a business adopts a strategy of truly engaging their staff many of the school holiday pinch points do not impact.
The important thing is that staff have their vacations and time away from the business and when they are in work are not distracted by an intransigent business culture but one that allows them to give their best and excel for the business.