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Childcare and school holidays: a juggling act.


French philosopher ‘Voltaire’ once said: “Man is free at the moment he wishes to be”.

Unfortunately for parents, kids are free from the 20th of July until the 3rd of September.

This annual release of the wild animals from their pens is an organisational headache for parents everywhere who work 5 days a week. Particularly if your children aren’t yet old enough to fend for themselves.

So, when it comes to balancing working life and the dreaded school holidays, what weapons does a parent have in their arsenal?

External childcare is the best option for many. Where possible, most people will make arrangements with family members or friends, or even with a nursery or childminder. But what about when this becomes too expensive, or unattainable?

You could bring your kid to work if you’re lucky enough to be a member of a very modern business. Office creches are becoming commonplace in some larger companies such as Goldman Sachs. Most places still don’t tend to cater for this though.

If you’re not lucky enough to work for Goldman Sachs, there are some really good workspaces popping up in the UK, such as ‘Entreprenursery’. This gives parents the opportunity to work, with other professionals, without missing out on their children growing up.  As great of an idea this is, it only caters to freelancers and entrepreneurial types. So, what if you must do your work in the office?

Well, as a parent, you have the right to request flexible working hours. This is clearly the most desirable of all options, as an article by HR Magazine claims that ‘a third of employees would prefer flexible working over a pay rise’.

Flexible working hours range from going to part-time or working compressed hours, in which you’d work your total number of agreed hours over a shorter period. There's some really interesting research done on flexible working available here.

However, this isn’t always given the go ahead and it’s worth noting that nearly 20% of working mums have been pushed out of their jobs due to a flexible working request being turned down.

If you believe you’re entitled and are still rejected by your employer, you may be being discriminated against. Check out this information Citizens Advice have on discrimination when it comes to flexible learning.

If this method doesn't work for you, then the last and least desirable choice may be to request unpaid leave.

Lots of parents are still unaware, but Following rules introduced in April 2014, parents with at least one year’s service with their current employer qualify for 18 weeks unpaid parental leave per child.

Trade Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady says the rules were introduced to ‘give working parents more support’.

Whilst this method will get you what you need, you will lose out on pay. But sometimes needs must.

Whichever method you choose, be it for the summer holidays or Christmas or any half-term, it is essential to plan ahead and let your boss and co-workers know ASAP.

Do you have any other tips or ideas on working around childcare? If you do I’d love to hear them!


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Sam Houlton

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  • Thanks for sharing.This is very interesting article.

  • Very interesting article, Sam. Thanks for sharing. And who doesn't like a juggling penguin!?!

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