Category: Work Life Balance

Childcare Circles for Working Parents

childcare circlesA few days ago I was having a conversation about Childcare and working. This led on to the funding for 15 free hours for 3 and 4 year olds. Finlay goes to Nursery for 15 hours, in theory, you would think childcare would be quite cheap for us. After all, you get 15 hours free, right? Technically yes, but in reality not always. For starters, the funding is only for 38 weeks of the year. That’s fair enough, but still, you would think we would only pay for 14 weeks of nursery a year,our bill would be low.

Well, our Monthly nursery fee for 15 hours a week is between £150 and £200 a month. Between £1800 and £2400 a year! How can that be? The simple answer is nurseries can choose how to offer the hours. You will be lucky to find a nursery that lets you take the hours as and when. In my nursery, the funding is limited to 3 hours per session, term time only. I can only take 9 of my 15 hours. Some nurseries let you spread the hours over the whole year which saves larger bills during the holidays if you’re lucky. The rest of the hours for the session at my nursery are charged at a higher hourly rate than the normal. Although it;s definitely cheaper, it;s not technically free and although our bill isn’t huge, it’s a big chunk when you’re on a lower income.

I actually work 22.5 hours a week (recently reduced from 26). If I had to pay childcare for extra sessions, It would not be cost effective for me to work. So how do I make up the shortfall in my childcare? Childcare Circles!

Childcare Circles

What are they? Well, childcare circles or babysitting rings are more often than not set up between friends. Those people who do not have the privilege of having regular babysitters can get out and enjoy an evening without having to pay the earth on top of a night out. They are often close friends, and the group set up rules and have a token type system. One token is perhaps an hours worth of childcare. Each party perhaps starts with 4 tokens and you give and receive between the group. However, childcare circles can easily be adapted for daycare around working parents.

I am extremely lucky that a close friend of mine was only 3 months behind me when I expecting Finlay. One day when the babies were small the topic of nursery came up and how expensive it was. A friend actually suggested we looked after each others baby to save money. We looked at each other and agreed. When we went back to work, I would have her little girl one day a week and she would have Finlay on another. Neither of us use the full day, but the option is there if that is needed. It saves us both money and can be extremely flexible. We have been doing it for almost 3 years now.

Things to consider when setting up a childcare circle around work
  • They work better for closer friends rather than acquaintances
  • Think about how much you trust the other party
  • How many people will be involved/how many babies can you cope with
  • Ensure you all discuss the terms and arrangements
  • Is everyone happy and agrees?
  • Do you have a back up plan in case it falls through?
Advantages
  • Can give you flexibility, hours not fixed like nursery
  • Saves a lot of money
  • Baby looked after by someone you know and trust
  • Children can form close friendships/bonds
Disadvantages
  • Could fall through quite easily if one party pulls out
  • dependent on two way trust
  • No cover when the other party is on holiday/during sickness
  • If you only have one day off, it won’t be just you and your child

Personally, the childcare circle I have been part of has worked so well for me and my friend. Without it, I don’t think I could work the hours I do and get my little bit of independence. Luckily both our works have good family friendly working policies in place. On the odd days where either of us has been away or sick, it hasn’t caused a problem. If you have close friends with children of a similar age, then bring up the subject. You might be surprised and find an affordable solution to childcare issues!

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The Difficulties of being a working mum

Working Mum

Becoming a working mum

When I found out I was expecting Finlay, I already knew I wanted to be a working mum after maternity Leave. I wanted to be a good role model. Little did I know then how it would pull on my heart strings. I also had no sense of how difficult the financial burden would be. My choice was made though. It was difficult, but I was lucky to have a good boss who understood I needed flexibility. I returned part time on compressed hours. This allowed to balance my childcare between family and nursery. It also importantly kept the cost of childcare down. I had a great work life balance and I was Lucky. Don’t get me wrong, it was still difficult. I longed to be with Finlay. Money was extremely tight, but I knew working was right for me.

The beginning of the end

Fast forward a few years and all has drastically changed. Its been a very difficult time the past 6 months. I have been at my company 10 years in one position or another, I am well liked and respected. I have given a lot to this company over the years. However, the last few years have seen many rounds of redundancies. This year I was served my ‘At Risk’ notice, I panicked. I work as an Administration Manager (part time and in a job share). My pays not great, but its not bad for administration. If I lost my job, how on earth would I find another as a working mum, part time and at my rate of pay? They come few and far between.

Luckily, after the consultation period our team were advised there would be no compulsory redundancies. I felt relief, but it would be short lived. A meeting was held in my absence with the team. We knew Line management was changing, but at this meeting my job Share was discussed. It no longer fitted the needs of the company. My hours would being cut (and given to my job share) and my working pattern would change to ‘office hours’ only. I would not be allowed to come in early or finish late.

Fighting my corner

I sought much advice over this from legal representatives, but I had no money to pay for in depth help. citizen’s advice were great, and I also used a free solicitor consultation, and an acquaintance who knew employment law . I highly recommend Working Families, a charity which provided legal advice to me as a working mum. Time and time again, the term indirect sex discrimination came up. My company were trying to enforce an inflexible working pattern that impacted my child caring responsibilities.

I had tried to negotiate a slight change to the working pattern. This was rejected due to unfairness on other team members. I now know, that this was an unlawful reason. The company had a responsibility to at least look into how the work could be rearranged to allow the flexibility. This was not done. It got to the point where my only option was to raise a grievance. By this point I was signed of due to stress and anxiety.

I put in my grievance to try and get my company to look into how everything had been handled.  There were suggestions about how the work could be rearranged. I asked them once more to reconsider my working hours. The very next day I received a letter stating, My role old role was redundant, the contract was up. I was served my redundancy notice (which they apologized that I had not received weeks before). I would be placed on garden leave. If I could not agree to my contract, my employment would terminate at the end of my notice. My grievance would be handled separately.

So now I faced the prospect of losing my job with no redundancy pay. I was so stressed out and I felt so out of my depth. However, I knew I was not wrong about following this up further, but I was torn. Did I carry on and risk the company saying enough is enough? Should I withdraw the grievance and accept my new contract?

Moving on

At the end of the day I couldn’t risk losing my job. I withdrew my grievance and advised my employer I would accept my new contract. This means with the reduction in hours and additional childcare I have lost about £3500 a year. A huge cut. I’m not sure how we will cope financially only time will tell. I ended up being off work for almost 2 months and returned 2 weeks ago. Luckily there is no animosity, but am I happy now as a working mum? I don’t think so. My job is now only a means to an end. My work life balance has gone and I’m left thinking where do I go from here? I guess only time will tell.

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NB: The situation is a lot more in depth and complicated than this post shows, this is just a brief overview but a lot more went on than I have touched upon.