Are you struggling with your recruitment like many early years settings and other businesses?

Would you love to know how to recruit more and better-trained employees into your business?

Did you know…

8 in 10 parents would apply for a job with flexible working options listed in the advert but only 3 in 10 parents would apply if the job did NOT have flexible working options?

30% of working parents in the UK are working in jobs below their skill level simply because they offer greater job flexibility?

About National Work Life Week?

National Work Life Week (NWLW) is an annual campaign set up by Working Families, a national UK charity for working parents and carers. Their mission is to “remove the barriers that people with caring responsibilities face in the workplace”, and they aim to “achieve a society in which everyone can fully meet their work and caring responsibilities, where all parents and carers have an equal opportunity to find and progress in secure, paid work.”

The organisers understand what being a working parent really means and some of the barriers that people face when returning to work after having a family, and are working actively with UK employers to bring about change. The event is run in partnership with another work and family charity called Bright Horizons which is sponsoring the week. They say that this year’s campaign is designed “to help your employees to combine work and family better. It’s good for people and good for business. Everybody wins.”

Our changing working lives

Our working patterns underwent a massive transformation during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. People were in lockdown, unable to go to work by order of the Government, and yet, we needed our economy and business sector to keep working in whatever way it could. People began working from home, and offices that were once filled with employees stood empty, but the businesses continued under a new model. Most of us remember learning how to use Zoom for the first time to talk to colleagues and family members across the country, and indeed the world.

Since the end of the pandemic, working in Britain has far from returned to ‘normal’.

Many companies chose to stop paying high rents and have set-up remote offices. More of us work from home permanently, and those companies who have insisted their employees return to the office have struggled with recruitment and retention.

A study in 2022 showed how working parents are rethinking their work-life balance after the pandemic. Working in an organisation that has access to flexible working can help retain staff according to the survey, as 55% of those questioned said they would likely consider leaving their job if they found another one that offered more flexible options. Change has already happened, and UK employers need to catch up.

For all UK parents, flexibility (66%) was second only to pay (73%) in terms of priorities when people were looking for a new job. However, for mothers, flexibility and pay are tied as the top priority.

What are the issues families face?

Some of the issues that families face when seeking or deciding whether to stay in work include:

  • Opportunities for flexible hours
  • Childcare issues such as drop-off and pick-up times
  • High costs for childcare compared to the high cost-of-living
  • Time off to accompany children to medical or other appointments
  • Trying to manage work with other caring responsibilities (e.g. parents/family members)
  • Stress caused by trying to maintain a work/life balance

What is flexible working?

According to the Gov.uk website, flexible working is “a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, for example having flexible start and finish times, or working from home.”

  • Flexible working practices may include:
  • Job sharing: two or more people fill the full-time role by each working part-time hours
  • Part-time working
  • Term-time working: a worker remains on a permanent contract but takes leave during school holidays
  • Flexitime: this is where employees can choose, within reasonable set limits, when to begin and end their working day but need to fulfil an agreed number of hours per week
  • Working from home/remote working
  • Compressed hours: where people work full-time hours but over fewer days, e.g. 35 hours/week over 4 days
  • Annual hours: employees are contracted to work a set number of hours over the year but this can be split out differently to allow for variation in the business
  • Career breaks: extended periods of leave which can be paid or unpaid of up to five years or more
  • Staggered hours: where employees may have different start/end times to cover shifts/opening hours

What is the legal position?

All employees in most parts of the UK have the legal right to request flexible working - not just parents and carers. Rules differ in Northern Ireland. This is known as “making a statutory application” - however, employees must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks to be eligible.

  • If an employee requests flexible working, the employers must deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’ which includes:
  • Assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application
  • Holding a meeting to discuss the request with the employee
  • Offering an appeal process

If the employee feels their request has not been handled reasonably, they can request an employment tribunal. However, an employer can refuse an application if they have a good business reason for doing so.

Things to do in your setting to mark the NWLW

  • Have open discussions with your team about flexible working if you have not got this as a policy already
  • Visit the NWLW website and check out their resources and ideas which include a free toolkit, webinars and training
  • Sign up for regular updates by email
  • Drop in on their ‘Lunch and Learn’ session
  • Use the ‘Happy to Talk Flexible Working’ logo and strapline on job vacancies
  • Run a questionnaire among your staff to canvas their opinions
  • Introduce a pilot scheme to see what the take up would be in your setting for offering more flexible working
  • Review and reconsider your policies affecting training and recruitment as well as parental leave

More information




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