Can carers apply for full-time jobs and ask for flex?
If you’ve suddenly become a carer for the first time, perhaps looking after an elderly relative, or caring for an unwell partner, finding flexible work can be daunting. And whilst we know from our own research that the majority of UK managers are open to flexible working, many jobs aren’t sign-posted as such.
Yet you shouldn’t let that put you off. Just because a role isn’t advertised as flexible, doesn’t mean you can’t get flexibility. If you spot a full-time job that you’d like to apply for, with the goal of making the hours work around your caring needs, here are a few things to remember….
You’ve got nothing to lose
If you think you’d be a good fit for the role, then go ahead and apply. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
But be realistic
Could the role actually be done in the working pattern you’re seeking, whether that’s part-time hours, working from home, or flexible hours? Can you see the arrangement working well for the employer, as well as for you?
Does the employer have a good record on flexible working? Research the company via its website, LinkedIn or jobs forums and see if you can find any suggestions that the business may be supportive. It’s worth keeping in mind that some specific roles demand a more rigid routine, and some company cultures are yet to embrace the flexible working revolution.
Finally, be honest: are you an excellent candidate for the role? The better suited you are to the position, the more effectively you’ll be able to negotiate flexible working if you get offered the job.
Think of yourself as a candidate first, and a carer second
That might sound like a hard thing to do, but there’s no point worrying about whether a full-time role can be made flexible if you don’t get offered the position in the first place.
So focus on getting the job. Your specific caring needs, such as helping a disabled partner get ready for the day, will obviously be top of your priority list - but not for the employer. To begin with, concentrate on selling your skills, proving that you’re the best person for the role.
Be savvy about how and when you ask for flexible working
For a more in-depth guide to asking about flexibility when applying for a full-time job, read our guide. It's mainly about picking the right time, and then combining gut instinct with a great sales pitch. The number one thing to remember is to keep the details of why you want flex to an absolutely minimum, and instead be able to demonstrate how flexible hours would benefit the company and the role.
Be prepared to compromise
If you are offered the role, you can enter negotiations about a working schedule that will allow you to meet your caring duties. But even if those duties are very specific, you need to find a way to have some wiggle room when discussing working hours with an employer, in order to show hat you're willing to be flexible yourself.
Remember that flexibility shouldn’t be seen as a perk – it’s just a different way of meeting the needs of the job. So be as helpful as you can to the employer in reaching a situation that works for both of you. For further advice, read our guide on How to negotiate flexibility once you’ve got a job offer.
Finally, have self-belief
It may feel like you have a huge number of things in your life to worry about and try to juggle. But if you do get offered a role, recognise the offer as a vote of confidence, and remember what you can bring to the table. The simple fact that you are caring for someone demonstrates that you are an organised, committed and hardworking individual. And these are attributes that employers are lucky to have in their team.