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UK's most family UNFRIENDLY employers??

(42 Posts)
JusAnothaMum Mon 11-Jul-11 11:57:57

Been doing some pre return-to-work research on family friendly employmers and it seems that 21st century England is happy teaming with all sort of best employer to work for lists and family friendly kitemark schemes. However, the numbers involved in these schemes seem relatively small as a proportion of employers in total, and they also all seem to be self nominated rather than reflecting what the mums and dads work for them really think.

So... I wanted to ask the MN world: who would you nominate as the country's most family UNFRIENDLY employer? Is the private sector really still so much worse than the public sector? Have the big corporates all really sorted themselves out in this respect. Anyone had requests for flexible working turned down from major employers with no clear business case?

AtYourCervix Mon 11-Jul-11 11:58:28

i would but i might get tracked down and sacked.

OpusProSerenus Mon 11-Jul-11 12:00:58

I worked for a large high street chemist store who regularly feature in the Times list of good places to work and, all I can say is they must have chosen the staff they asked very carefully indeed because a huge majority were astounded!

Don't know how you would find out accurately but I am very cynical about this sort of information.

JusAnothaMum Mon 11-Jul-11 12:21:15

Thanks both. Interestingly, I've just been on the phone to a friend in the US who says that US mums are far more organised on this and really turned around the practice of some of the big companies (e.g. Walmart) by banding together petitioning etc. These guys seem to organise some of it: Nothing companies hate more than incurring the public wrath of us mums! Wondering if there's any millage in doing something like this here... Glad of your thoughts.

Grevling Tue 12-Jul-11 09:56:58

I'd expect labeling employers as "bad employers" without proof is a quick way to a string of solicitors letters.

JusAnothaMum Tue 12-Jul-11 12:59:53

Yes, true point Grevling! Proof is needed. So where better place to start amassing evidence than parents sharing their true experiences??

Just been told by a couple of mums in the park that lawyers firms are ones to watch...

yeknelle Tue 12-Jul-11 14:22:09

I have just joined mumsnet to explore this very topic. I probably am not too similar to many of those joining, but am an American Swede who is doing research in Scotland. I have two grown children. What attracted my attention to this site was the fact that it is called "mumsnet" but is "for parents." This seems to speak volumes about UK practice and policy in general--and reflects, I think, JusAnathaMum's concerns!

In Sweden, government policy regarding the care for children, for example, has used the term "parental leave" for more than 25 years. In the work place, it is common to hear ALL parents talk about their maternity AND paternity leaves. At day care, it is not unusual to find more men than women picking up children after school.

Perhaps the law needs to focus on family first--giving the same privileges to men and women--and then rewarding firms who take the spirit of the law on board as well as its practice. So much however starts with challenging the very language used in society.Whilst Swedish parents as a whole might enjoy having a website like this, it is impossible to imagine its EVER being called the equivalent of "mumsnet"! Thoughts?

tiggersreturn Tue 12-Jul-11 16:10:23

Jusanothamum - what sector is your experience in and where would you like to work?

People post here in semi-confidence wanting advice on how to improve difficult situations so outing employers in this way may be very harmful to the individuals.

Awomancalledhorse Tue 12-Jul-11 16:18:14

My mother used to work as a PA in a childrens charities.
She got the sack after taking a large number (think it was 3 weeks in total) of absences as my younger sister was taken to hospital, when she was 4, after an asthma attack which turned into her being in ICU for septicemia.
I remember mother came home from work in tears, because they had said to her if she had been ill it would've been fine, but they couldn't accept the number of days off otherwise.

Bit annoyed that Police Officers in the Met only get 5 days (or is it 4?) of paternity leave, but hey-ho!

VivaLeBeaver Tue 12-Jul-11 16:20:59

As a midwife the company I see that most pregnant women have problems with when it comes to things like time off for antenatal appts, slashing their hours when they find out they're pg, not making an allowances/risk assessment for pg women is Tesco.

Its maybe just our local store but I hear nothing but horror stories from employees there.

allegrageller Tue 12-Jul-11 16:21:26

City solicitors. All of them. Say no more (for fear of legal action, obv smile).

minipie Tue 12-Jul-11 16:28:36

I'd agree, allegra, but I suspect investment banks might just pip them to the post.

tiggersreturn Tue 12-Jul-11 16:29:12

Before everyone continues posting here I'd just be a bit wary. We don't want this thread turning into another GF type thing for MN. Jusanothamum (unless she's namechanged) has only posted on this thread and one other with a very similar type question which sounds to me the sort of question which would produce good research for an article.

Jusanothamum may be a journalist returning to work but I think it's fair to know what use this "amassing evidence" is going to be used for.

JusAnothaMum Tue 12-Jul-11 17:36:47

Appreciate your concerns tiggersreturn and re-reading I can see why it might have come across like this.

I'm not a journalist though - in fact a civil servant on a career break wondering where to go next. But also really interested in the US campaigning experience and keen to explore whether similar approach to employers (ie mums banding together and kicking up a stink about general bad practices) might be worthwhile here. If there's an appetite I'd be keen to lend a hand and get it started. Doubt things are as bad here as the States and if all the big UK companies already doing the right thing then there's clearly no point ....but from comments so far though doesn't seem as if its so rosey.

Am sure once I return to work I will have enough other things to occupy my mind not to bother about planning social uprisings! But until then I remain interested in everyone's views and insights...

eandh Tue 12-Jul-11 17:39:30

I work for a bank that promotes its family flexible working policy...yep thats why you gave me the required 4 weeks notice to change my school hour working days to 9-5 days!

eandh Tue 12-Jul-11 17:40:58

Sorry didnt finish post ..sadly I have had to take the change as tehre is no way I can earn the same money elsewhere (I only work 2 days a week and as it is my Mum does school run for me one day, I work every other Saturday all day as DH can have dd's and the other weeks I work Friday so dd's go to breakfast club and fil just retired so will now collect them from school once a fortnight!)

TheFarSide Tue 12-Jul-11 17:43:54

A top London university told me they weren't prepared to offer job share or part-time hours on a job in student admissions. I was slightly taken aback as the education sector is usually pretty good about flexible working.

tiggersreturn Tue 12-Jul-11 19:43:22

Sorry about that justanothamum - it was the lack of personal details about you that made me wonder.

My experience (as a lawyer) has been that private practice is not great partly due to firm attitudes but also just due to the nature of the job i.e. it is always expected that you will be there for the client day or night whatever your other commitments. Sadly I think this is true of any service industry so accountancy, management consultancy, banks etc. Saying that there can be sub-sets within professions particularly more UK based ones where this is less true because you're not having to deal with too many different time zones which really mucks things up.

My experience has been that working in-house particularly for big (private) corporates is a much better experience because they are more geared up to allow things to happen flexibly as they have more staff at stake, their share prices are linked to reputations and there's just more variety within them. Saying which it will always depend on your line manager/team attitude at the end of the day.

Other types of private industry may not be so wonderful dependant on the agespread and make up of the management or other people giving the organisation its dominant feel.

I'm not sure if campaigning would do anything about this as the change has to either come from the clients (who like the fact that when they have a problem there is someone available day or night to deal with it) or from the companies themselves on the grounds that women are a large part of the workforce and it is not good management to lose a significant chunk of your talent once they reach their 20s-30s.


JoleneJoleneJoleneJoleeene Tue 12-Jul-11 19:47:03

Several of my friends have had terrible experiences working for the nhs

Lotkinsgonecurly Tue 12-Jul-11 19:55:17

I've had my hours change with a 2 week notice period working for a very large children's charity. Also lots of people within my local part of the national organisation are rejected on their flexible working suggestions after maternity leave due to their not being a business need ( or so it was suggested) for their hours. However temporary staff are now filling in where permanent workers are not allowed. I will not name and shame but I certainly wouldn't look to work for them again.

northerngirl41 Tue 12-Jul-11 21:47:51

Well from my point of view I've had much worse treatment being a non-parent than I ever had being a parent...

As a non-parent I've been expected to pull overtime to cover other staff member's work who had to leave bang on time to pick kids up from nursery. I've also had to cover numerous maternity leaves where we couldn't find a suitably qualified replacement so I ended up with their workload on my desk.

I've also had to cover Xmas holidays because the mums gazumped leave first leaving one poor girl stranded in London over the whole festive period since we needed office cover for Xmas Eve and she couldn't get home otherwise.

I've also been turned down for part-time work when it's been granted to mums returning for maternity, for the exact same role simply because "it's awkward for the clients".

Until we start treating everyone the same in the workplace, you're always going to have resentment against people taking parental leave because that understanding isn't extended to other people who need the same flexibility.

kirrinIsland Tue 12-Jul-11 22:21:51

Agreed northerngirl41 Either a business can accommodate a change in someone's hours or it can't - why that change is needed shouldn't make any difference.

We had a situation in my office where a colleague was very annoyed to find that she couldn't get half term off because 2 others had already booked it and that was the maximum allowed. She was trying to book it a couple of days before half term started and thought that she should get priority because she had children - the rest of us thought that she should have been more organised, it's not like they keep the term dates an secret 'til the last minute and other people have equally valid reasons for needing a particular week off.

Luckily, she's in the minority and our bosses don't have one rule for people with children and one for everyone else. They are pretty flexible and will accommodate requests for flexibility from anyone that aren't to the detriment of the business.

I do get annoyed at people deciding to have a baby and then expecting everyone else to do the crap shifts to cover them - unless they've consulted the rest of the office in their decision to reproduce of course smile

Should clarify (as I realise I sound pretty harsh) if all the people with DCs in my office opted out of our weekend rota then everyone else would have to work one weekend in 4 instead of one in 8 - is that fair? (none of us did btw).

Employers who recognize the importance of work/balance and are as flexible as they can be without damaging themselves are worth their weight in gold but it is hard to spot them when you're job hunting, especially, as has been said above, what some companies say and what they actually do are often 2 very different things!

northerngirl41 Wed 13-Jul-11 09:38:13

Exactly kirrinIsland - and in fact I'd avoid companies who touted "family friendly" policies for precisely that reason. I'd rather they had fair policies in place for everyone with a sensible amount of flexibility as long as it doesn't affect the actual business.

If they interpret "family friendly" as parents get priority, that automatically means a hostile working environment as non-parents have to cover the slack and don't get the same flexibility.

Or if it's interpreted as "everyone can work however it suits them" it generally means a chaotic schedule with huge delays in projects because one person has decided only to work term time, another only works Tues/Weds but not if it's sunny and someone else leaves at 3pm to walk their dog.... Not conduicive to keeping clients if you are constantly late with projects and therefore not a particularly secure position to be in.

yeknelle Thu 14-Jul-11 18:44:16

tiggersreturn, justanothamum et al. Although I identified myself a bit here, I should also have been a bit more direct in answering justanothamum's question. Hopefully, though she and others see that I am in some ways am echoing the underlying concern in her question. The fact that I am a researcher, does not mean that I am researching this site, but it does mean that I am, as a sociologist, always hyperaware and/or interested (whether I want to be or not! :-) of practice, culture, and policies. In that sense, everyone who chooses to write on many of the threads in MN are exactly the same. Anyway, I'm very interested in hearing about the different company policies--named or unnamned. And, I like to learn from what I hear and to see change happen. It is amazing to me, for instance that the Met Police get only 4-5 days "parental leave". I am wondering, however, justanothamum, what you mean by "Doubt things are as bad here as the States"? Are you referring to the economy in general, or to family-friendly/unfriendly practices? Or?

And Northerngirl41--you've some reasonable points. What do you think a good FLEX policy should look like that is work-life balance friendly--and fair?

drcrab Thu 14-Jul-11 22:45:43

I've recently been in Sweden for a conference and it was so refreshing to see on the streets so many men with buggies, children etc.
It was also interesting to hear from other Scandinavian colleagues that they thought that me going back to work 6 months post natal and bringing my family along (2kids and husband) was impressive.
Obviously the surprise that I was already back at work stemmed from the fact that over there they get a whole year off, mostly fully paid and the bit that's not full pay was 80-90%!! And of course without a doubt daddies take paternity leave and definitely for a few months (frowned upon if men dont)! I think it's brilliant and wish we had this sense of parent leave rather than maternity leave.

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