“We think this new policy offers a fair and balanced solution to one of the most thorniest issues facing workforces across the country…”
A recent Nationwide study found that 73% of parents are forced to stagger leave from work with their partner to cover childcare over the holiday periods, resulting in less time for the whole family to spend together. More than 81% of working parents also said they found it tricky to book time off over the summer holidays due to the high demand of colleagues requesting the same dates for the same reason.
But Edinburgh-based HR and employment law specialist Solve, which says it was facing its own school holiday hell since its entire staff is made up of working mums, decided to take matters into its own hands and develop a new policy to address the problem.
It says the initiative has been such an unqualified success that it’s now looking to roll out its model as a template solution to other companies plagued with the same problem.
Mum-of-one and director of Solve Frances Farrell said: “We think this new policy offers a fair and balanced solution to one of the most thorniest issues facing workforces across the country.
“Holiday requests are a problem in workplaces around the UK, causing grief to both the employee and employer.
“We are often asked for advice by our clients on how best to manage the situation and avoid the need for employees to perhaps mask their childcare requirements through sickness or other absenteeism.
“Furthermore, we began to experience the same problem in our workplace. As we began to grow, some requests for time off during the school holiday period had to be declined. However, we started to recognise the strain that this was putting on our employees.
“While the majority of our staff home based, this also brings problems and they would sometimes have no alternative but to have their children sitting with them whilst they were working. This situation not only created stress and anxiety for them, but from our perspective, as a client led business, we didn’t want clients calling for advice and the team member struggling to provide a great service as their child was competing for their attention.”
With its own colleagues now feeling the strain of managing childcare during the school holiday period Solve. decided it was time to uncover a way to deal with the issue effectively that would suit everyone and created the ‘Solve. School Holiday Ad-Hoc Childcare Policy’.
The new policy, which aims to outline exactly what options exist if someone is unable to take holidays for childcare due to conflicting requests.
Swapping days off where there is ample cover on certain days of the week
Moving hours of work e.g. starting/finishing earlier/later
Working ‘email only’ or where the individual has older children ‘email and calls only’ whilst taking a pay reduction for the day
Farrell added: “We tried to make the policy as clear and straightforward as possible so that the team can easily understand their options and have various choices on how to manage their time.
“We operate an open and honest culture and we’d rather our team talk to us about their needs, instead of hiding their childcare requirements and spending the school holiday periods worrying about whether they might be asked to attend a meeting or dial into a conference call.”
The policy has proved to be a huge success among colleagues with many of them agreeing that it changed their lives over the summer holidays and allowed them to actually enjoy the time they had with their kids.
Sonja O’Rourke, HR coordinator and mum of two small children under eight, said: “I used to worry when the nursery and school holidays came around as to how I was going to manage looking after my children whilst not using up all my holiday entitlement or, even worse, having holiday requests being declined.
“When this policy was introduced, it made things much easier. I used the option of working ‘email only’ during parts of the summer, which meant that, although I took a small reduction in pay, I didn’t need to pay for childcare and could still carry out some elements of my job, so I was still supporting the business and attending to my kids at the same time.”
Solve now plans to share this alternative approach with its clients and the wider SME marketplace as a proven solution to the dilemma of working parents and school holidays.
Farrell said: “The openness that we have created in managing the often hidden conflict that exists between employers and employees in relation to time off for childcare is not one that all employers would be willing or able to adopt.
“However, for Solve and our team, it has proven effective and we believe, has increased trust and engagement within our business, which is the foundation of any high performance workplace.”
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