"Make your own luck to get a flexible job"

MPU Case studA co-carer for her grandmother, Marion learned that fortune favours the brave when it comes to getting a flexible job. Here’s her story of how she landed the job she needed.  

I’ve needed to work flexibly for the last three years, since my grandmother’s alzheimers became severe. As a family, we didn’t want to see her in a home. My father is single now and moved in to live with her, and looks after her in the evenings and at weekends. But he still works full-time in a demanding job that he loves, so myself and my brother help out during the day. Between the two of us, and with some help from a professional carer, we are able to share the caring load with a patchwork of hours.

At first I did my bit by working part-time, three days a week, and looking after grandma on the other two. At that time, I worked at the head office of a small retail chain, who accepted my request to reduce my hours.

Redundancy forced me to get a new flexible job

Then last year I was made redundant when the company wasn’t doing so well. This was a complete disaster for me – I tried to find a similar part-time job, but in three months only one job cropped up that I felt I could apply for, and I didn’t get it.

My redundancy money had run out and I was getting desperate. I took some local shop work as a stop-gap, to try to keep my head above water financially, but it wasn’t enough. I decided I’d just have to apply for full-time permanent jobs and then ask for flexible working if I got a job offer.

A steep learning curve on when to mention my needs!

I began getting interviews for the full-time roles fairly quickly – I work in admin, so there were plenty of jobs being advertised that I was well qualified to do. But I had a steep learning curve on how to get the flexibility I needed. When I got through to my first final interview, during the ‘any questions’ bit I made the mistake of explaining my needs as a carer. The interviewer was sympathetic, but I wasn’t offered the job and I really did feel that it was because of the flexibility. So I decided not to ask about flexible working at future interviews. I must say, I didn’t like doing this at all and felt as if I was being dishonest – but I also knew I had no choice.

Negotiating flexibility when I got job offers

I kept applying and got a few job offers. So now I had to negotiate my working pattern with the employer. First, I talked to dad and my brother about different ways we could share the care load, so that I would have a range of different working patterns up my sleeve, in case I needed to compromise.

Two companies wouldn’t accept my request at all and withdrew the offer, one of them being quite cross about it, which was upsetting. A third company reacted nicely, but we couldn’t reach an agreement that worked for them as well as for me. But then I hit success with the fourth company. It was an admin role where they wanted me to be in the office every day, but they agreed to shorten the working day and give me an early start so that I worked 8.30am to 2.30pm. By switching the times of the professional carer, and by my dad working from home some of the mornings, we were able to work out a new patchwork of care that worked.

My advice to other carers who need to find a flexible job

I’d say to other carers: don’t sit around waiting for the flexible job of your dreams – you need to make your own luck. Apply for full-time jobs, and ask for flexible working when you get the offer. Be prepared for knock-backs, but don’t take them personally and keep at it. It’s exhausting, but this approach got me what I needed in the end.

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