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Should companies be offering term time hours to parents?

Monday, 20 May 2019

One of the biggest challenges that working parents face is juggling professional demands with family life. This has a knock-on impact for their employers too, as there’s always a race to book time off during the school holidays.

In order to combat the stress of balancing careers and kids, global accounting firm Ernst & Young is trialling new annual leave entitlements in Australia – including a flexible holiday schemes that allow parents to coordinate their hours with the school calendar.

Is this just a novelty idea designed to grab a few headlines, or could term time hours be a reality for more businesses? And if your company wants to liberate guidelines around annual leave, how do you loosen up without losing control?

Let’s take a closer look.

Taking time out from the daily grind

In a world focussed on productivity and personal wellbeing, an increasing number of employers are looking at ways they can offer greater flexibility to staff – in turn benefitting their quality of work.

Ernst & Young is the latest big organisation to tackle this challenge, announcing the launch of life leave, which will be available to Australian employees in addition to paid leave entitlement.

Essentially, life leave gives workers the opportunity to take an additional 6-12 weeks off each year unpaid, to explore their passions or enjoy an extended break. This bonus holiday can be taken in a single block, or two blocks spaced out across the year.

On top of this, EY is rolling out further schemes to support working parents and carers. Going forward, staff in Australia will be able to apply for term-time contracts; this can either be on a permanent basis, or temporarily if they are struggling to manage responsibilities at home. The company is also offering non-parents the opportunity to work part-time for up to three months.

The benefits of being more flexible for parents

The idea might seem madness to some bosses, but greater consideration of parents’ needs makes business sense. 86% of mothers and fathers want to work flexibly, but only 49% have the opportunity at present.

This gap between desire and reality creates multiple issues for companies of all sizes. There’s a resentment among staff; they feel their employers don’t care about them as people, only as part of the corporate machine. They may also have raised levels of stress and tiredness, both of which affect their ability to produce great work.

At its worst, the parenting/professional struggle can result in talented people leaving their job – either for something less demanding or time-consuming, or to stay at home and raise their children full-time. This can be very disruptive to businesses, as a wealth of skill and knowledge is lost every time a member of staff resigns.

On the flip side, flexible hours for parents is a huge selling point when recruiting. It opens up job opportunities to candidates who might never have applied if the role was full-time all year round.

Parents are also very good at organising their time. As the saying goes, if you want something doing, ask a busy person; they want to get things done efficiently so they can get home to their family. They will also be determined to prove this set-up can work, so will put 110% into the job during term-time so that school holiday absences aren’t felt by their colleagues.

Making term time hours work for everyone

Naturally, there are always considerations when rolling out new schemes – and the big stumbling block for many businesses is how it will affect employees that aren’t parents.

Ernst & Young has been quite smart in this respect, as it has rolled out perks for non-parent works at the same time. This way, they are showing their appreciation for workers at all points in life, providing them with the flexibility to indulge personal passions alongside professional demands.

Another hurdle that stops some companies being flexible is their fear of losing control. The greater variety there is in how, when and where people work, the higher the chance that deadlines will be missed and communications will break down – at least, this is what bosses believe.

However, there are tools on the market that help organisations to negotiate the challenges of flexible working. As a provider of leave management software, we are enabling businesses of all sizes to centrally track exactly which staff members are working at any point in time.

By enabling companies to record all types of leave – holiday, external meetings, remote working and sickness – in one place, everyone can instantly see who’s in and who’s off at any point in time. This makes it easier to plan meetings and project deadlines, and also to request time off without causing calendar clashes.

Companies are able to offer flexible working schemes because they have an efficient system for managing staff absences. If your business is willing to prioritise leave management software, you too could start offering innovative working solutions.

Try WhosOff leave management software for free and see how your business can improve the way it coordinates employee entitlements.

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels.com

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Posted by Tony Bushell

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