Types of flexible working: pros and cons for carers

where can carers go for helpSo what do we actually mean by flexible working? And how can different schedules work around your caring needs? Take a look at our guide to the different types of flexible working and see which arrangement suits you best.

Flexible hours

If you can no longer work a standard nine to five because of your caring responsibilities, one option is to ask for flexible or staggered hours. This might mean starting and coming home a bit later than the standard hours, enabling you (for example) to manage the morning routine for the person you care for, whilst also allowing you to work the full hours needed for the job.

Alternatively, you could negotiate with a current or potential employer to not work a typical 9-5, but to make up the hours elsewhere. This is what Cathy, 49, did when her mum was diagnosed with cancer. Twice a week, Cathy needed to drive her mother to the hospital for treatment. When Cathy took half days, she was able to make up the missed work from home - in the evenings or at weekends. “I was lucky my boss was so understanding. There was no way my mum could have got to the hospital on her own. It did mean spending evenings catching up on email but I didn’t mind, knowing that my mum was taken care of”.

Remember: you have a legal right to ask for flexible working and for periods of time off in emergencies. 

Shift work

You could also look for shift work that fits in around your needs.

For 33-year-old single parent Istar, finding a role that can fit around her childcare is paramount. Istar has five children, and her 10-year-old son has Downs Syndrome. Istar works in childcare, covering for parents who also do shift work, working six hours a day, split across two three hour shifts. This way she can still do the school runs, help with homework, cook their dinner and spend some time with them. While shift work can be convenient, watch out for zero hours contracts. When Istar’s son was in hospital for 12 days, the agency that Istar used to work for simply didn’t pay her.

Part-time

Typically, part-time working means any contract that’s less than 30 hours a week. This might be the solution if you need time to do a weekly shop, clean the house and manage the affairs of an elderly relative.

When Jean’s husband was first recovering from a stroke, Jean cut her administrative role down to just the mornings. She felt this way she could keep her foot in a job she enjoyed, but also not leave James for too long, and she’d be home in the early afternoon to make lunch. Jean had worked at her company for a long time and had understanding employers. “It allowed me to keep earning money, which was obviously essential, but at the same time I didn't feel like I was completely deserting James. It also gave me a sense of normality when our lives had been turned upside down.” Working part-time is great way to create some balance, but if you are anxious about the impact it might have on your career aspirations, read our Guide to getting promoted whilst working flexibly.

Home-working

For many, a solution to caring responsibilities would be working from home. Some industries lend themselves to freelance work, where you register as a sole trader and work for several clients. This is commonplace in marketing, PR and journalism. There are other roles that are suited to remote working – for example sales, and also jobs at small start-up businesses which are often home-based initially to cut costs.

With help from technology, home-working is increasingly possible. So it’s worth trying to negotiate it, in either a potential role or your current one. After James took a fall, Jean went down to just two mornings a week and worked the rest of the time from home. “It put my mind at ease and if anything, I worked for longer on the mornings I was at home because I didn’t have the commute to deal with.”

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