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Shared Parental Leave: The Facts

You’re on your knees. You’ve had no sleep in days, weeks, months even. The baby seems to hate you. I mean that must be the only explanation surely? It’s almost like she is crying at you. You’ve not eaten all day; quite simply you haven’t been able to put the baby down to even go to the toilet let alone prepare food. Then you hear the key in the lock. Inwardly your heart leaps- he’s home!

Into the living room (which seems to have become your prison) waltzes a smiling hubby with his arms outstretched to take the baby, who you gleefully handover.

‘Had a good day darling? The house is looking a bit of a mess…’

Before he even finishes his sentence you dash past him out of the room,  unsure of whether to head first to the fridge or to the toilet. Either way, one thing is for sure; you need to kill your husband.

But here’s the thing. Due to the introduction of Shared Parental Leave, it doesn’t need to be like this. Designed to enable a more modern and equal approach to parenting, Shared Parental Leave enables partners to share both the joys and the difficulties of maternity leave.

Shared parental leave

What is it?

Shared Parental Leave (lets refer to it as SPL) can be taken if maternity leave is finished early. The remaining leave goes into a ‘pot’ and can be shared in a number of different ways, either in separate blocks or taken together.

Who is eligible?

To be eligible, the care of the child must be shared with one of the following:

  • Your husband, wife or civil partner or joint adopter
  • The child’s parent
  • Your partner (providing that you live with them)

In terms of your employment, you must have been:

Continuously employed for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before your due date. (Yes, like with Maternity Leave this is that backwards way of saying week 25 of pregnancy).

Secondly, to allow you to qualify, your partner must have:

Worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the due date and have earned above the threshold for maternity allowance (£30 a week) in 13 of the 66 weeks.

So, if both parents meet this criteria, you will both be able to take, and share the leave. Nice. However what about when one of you doesn’t? Well as long as one parent at least meets the criteria in the paragraph above, then the other parent will qualify for leave.

You must also ensure that the correct notice is given (8 weeks notice must be given before any block of leave you wish to take) which should include a declaration that your partner meets the employment and income requirements which allow you to receive SPL.

What you get

With the exception of the first two weeks after baby’s birth which is known as ‘Compulsory Maternity Leave’ and must be taken by the mother (no explanation needed – come on now, you don’t need to be a hero) SPL lasts for the same duration as Maternity Leave. This means that parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave either continuously or intermittently between blocks of work.

SPL can be taken at any time from the birth of baby to 52 weeks after that date.

Shared parental leave

How it works: The options

  1. Both parents can take time off together

Whilst this means that the overall length of your leave will be shorter as essentially you are using up two weeks at a time, to me the thought of having hubby around in those, haven’t had time to wash or eat or even BLOW MY NOSE, early days sounds like bliss. You can be off work together for up to 6 months or alternatively your partner could return to work after a couple of months and then you could choose split the rest of the leave into blocks to alternate childcare.

   2. Both parents work part time

This would mean that the whole of the 50 weeks leave could be covered in terms of childcare and you could both get equal time caring for baby- win win!

   3. Mum goes back to work and her partner takes the leave

In these modern times in which we live, it might be the case that you (as mother) are actually the main breadwinner. In which case it would make sense that you go back to work earlier to start bringing in those pennies (in order to afford all those completely essential Amazon baby purchases that you absolutely need to buy immediately). In this instance your other half could take up the bulk of the SPL as soon as you’ve returned to work.

4. Only one parent qualifies

Whilst this sort of feels like it is negating the point, actually if only you as mother qualifes for SPL, you can still chose to end your Maternity Leave early and start SPL. This then gives you the flexibility to split your leave into 3 blocks (and earn some money again in time for the he’s to big for the travel system I think it’s time to go buggy shopping again, pushchair upgrade).

What about pay?

So in terms of pay you are looking at the same statutory rate as the base rate of maternity pay. Huh? Well from the first of April this equates to £145.18 per week or 90% of your average earnings, whichever is lower. This is paid for a total of 37 weeks (to cover the same duration as Maternity Leave).

Shared parental leave in touch days

These are the same as Keeping in Touch (KIT) days when on maternity leave, but instead of 10 days, you and your partner can each take up to 20 paid SPLIT days (yes, I know; puns a plenty) and still continue to receive your statutory pay.

Self employed

As with many things, being self employed makes things slightly trickier but it is still possible to take SPL if you (as mother) are self employed. You can create leave and pay for your employed partner to take from your Maternity Allowance which you will not be using.

So that’s it, I’ve tried to keep it fairly simple as it can be a bit mind boggling, but if in doubt, give your HR department a call or ACAS are always pretty helpful (and freeeeee) if you don’t have one.

Kayleigh  x

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12 Things that Being a Parent has made me

You Before I had children, I told myself that when I become a parent I wouldn’t change. Hell to the no. Ok so things might be different, but would it change me as a person? Pah! Of course it wouldn’t! Except being a parent has changed me. It’s changed me in lots of ways. Some ways probably better than others.

1. Tired

Boring and oh so cliche I realise, but true. Do you remember when you were a kid and you’d go to a sleepover at a friends house? You’d stay up all night playing Dream Phone and discussing which colour Kappa tracksuit bottoms you were going to get next. You’d finally fall asleep about 4am and then be up again at 7. Remember the feeling where you’d be so tired but your parents were adamant that you were not allowed to go to bed as you ‘wouldn’t sleep at night’ (I mean obviously I totally get this now but at the time jeez was it a shitter) .

Anyway that’s the feeling that I’m taken back to now that I’m a parent. Except it’s not just one night. It’s Every. Single. Night. Sometimes the tiredness is so bad I actually feel sick (anyone else get that tired hot face thing or is it just me?) Being a parent makes me want to go back and give pre child me who thought she was tired when she went to bed at midnight and had to get up for work at 7, a little talking too. Not that she’d listen, she was too busy socialising and spending her money on herself (oh the days). Back to the point though; yep I’m tired, always.

Being a parent

2. Predictable

Sometimes, just sometimes I feel like my life might be classed as a teeny tiny bit predictable. I mean it might just be me, but when I’m putting the baby into her bed at 6.42, 12 minutes after her 6.30 feed for the billianth day in a row… Yeah it sort of feels a little bit samey (yes I know, one day I could really mix it up and pop her in bed at 6.57 or something). But for any non parents reading this, for a lot of kids, (my kids) routine is important. Most people who have been anywhere near me and my baby past 6pm at night (this is bath time foolish parents, what the hell do you think you’re playing at?!) would definitely vouch for this.

3. A rubbish friend

Talking of being predictable… You know who you are. The friends I have let down time after time because the baby has yet another cold and only mummas milk will do. I promise one day, one day I will become that funtime friend again that you used to know. (Except maybe this time sans the cowboy boots and disc belt…)

4. Late

For everything. Always. Trying to get three kids out the door on time for anything is like an army mission. One that I am currently failing at dismally.

5. Haggered

Weeks go by and I’m so busy and/ or tired that I don’t look in the mirror. Not properly anyway. Maybe enough to quickly whack on some mascara and liquid eyeliner and then walk off before its dried (and before I notice that oh-so-annoying black mark on my eyelid that nobody tells you about all day- come on guys I’d prefer to just know ok?) But when, maybe at the weekend, I take time to properly look I am usually horrified by the haggered face that looks back it me. Eye bags bigger that Tesco bags for life (do they even call them that anymore? Because they were never really for life were they, lets be honest- I’d say six months max). Add to that grey hairs that I swear I’m too young to be seeing and skin that is totally neglected because I’m just too tired at night to take my make up off properly (ok, ok at all).

Being a parent is simply not the solution if you want to preserve your youth.

Being a parent

6. Guilty

Guilty for being at work and missing annoyingly timed school events. Guilty for attending annoyingly timed school events and missing work. Guilty for being too tired to play Hungry Hippos for the 3024th time. Guilty for wishing the baby would hurry up and reach the next milestone to make life a little easier. I mean let’s face it, pre kids, the only time I really felt guilty about anything was when I had bought a family sized bag of Minstrels and scoffed them all by the time Eastenders had finished, (although as we all know; family sized isn’t really family sized is it…) parenthood has that annoying way of making you feel guilty constantly.

7. Get it

I vividly remember being a student and sitting on a bus behind two women talking about their babies and how one of them hadn’t pooed for 3 days and all the tricks she had been trying.

What the actual f**k? My pre-child self thought, (no doubt turning up the volume of Mika on her minidisc player) when I’m a parent there is no way I’m going to talk about things like that in public!

Except I have. Regularly. Because once you’re a parent it’s like you enter into a special little club of understanding.

For example, you’re having one of those days; the baby hasn’t pooed for 3 days (yeah, lets use that one again) and is screaming in pain and your toddler is having a full on, throwing herself on the floor meltdown in the middle of M&S. A mum with her children walks past and gives you a knowing look. She gets it. The young business man however whose suit your child has just squirted her Percy Pig drink all over (should have gone with your gut, you knew she couldn’t be trusted with that straw) is not so understanding, offering either a glare, or if you’re having a particularly bad day, maybe even a rant.

Being a parent means you just get it. You get what it’s like to be a parent.

8. Less selfish

Whilst nobody really wants to admit to being selfish, on some levels I think a lot of us can be. Maybe not to the extreme, but that’s what we do isn’t it, we look after ourselves. We focus on our own desires and needs. We tend to put those first because nobody else is going to.

Being a parent changes things. It means putting the needs of those little people that you created, before your own. It means missing nights out because the baby is poorly. It means sitting for hours on end in soft play hell when you have a pounding headache. It means wearing clothes you’ve had since the dawn of time because you spent £38000 on childrens clothes in the Next VIP Sale (you did get the 5pm slot after all, so it would be rude not to use it) and have no money left to spend on yourself.

9. Appreciate the little things

I realise this sounds a bit wanky but yep, since having kids I really have started actually noticing stuff. Take the seasons for example. Pre kids, Autumn just meant wet weather and gunky leaves getting stuck to the bottom of my (no doubt expensive – this is pre kids remember) boots. Now it means collecting conkers, throwing leaves in the air and splashing in puddles. Spring, whilst great for most, just used to mean swollen up frog eyes and tissues stuck up my nose as I faced my yearly battle with hayfever. Whilst the hayfever thing still has me coughing and spluttering each year, now Spring means getting excited about seeing daffidils (and correcting the 4 year old when she refers to them as scaffolding – we got our extension last Spring and it seems there’s a bit of word confusion going on) rolling down hills, and picking flowers (no, not yours Pauline next door, that wasn’t us… promise…)

image.jpeg

10. Embrace my inner child

From dancing around in the kitchen to the hard core beatz of The Disney Princess Soundtrack Collection, to having a who-can-swing-the-highest competition (I swear those swing seats are not as wide as they used to be) at the local park, having kids has made me realise that sometimes, it’s great to just be silly.

11. Happy

Of course I’ve had some shitty, slide down the wall and why don’t we have any wine in the cupboard kind of days and obviously we are not #lovinglife every day. But since having my girls, I have been happiest I have ever been. For every strop, there’s laughter. For every poosplosion from the baby, there’s the joy of watching her learn new things and master new skills. For every M&S meltdown, (although to be honest these are minimal as I’m more of Tescos gal – three kids here remember) there are fun family days out. Whilst the shitty days are admittedly pretty rubbish, all the hard work is worth it for the happiness that being a parent brings.

Being a parent

12. Feel a love like no other

I’m going to end on this one. And in all honesty, it doesn’t need explaining. Quite simply, being a parent has made me feel a love that I didn’t know existed. Even on the very bad days when I’m scraping baby poo out of my hair whilst the 5 year old tells me she hates her life because I won’t buy her a Pikmepop (someone was clearly feeling lazy and/or too hungover when it came to naming these things). Even when things are feeling pretty bloody hard. I love these three little humans more than life itself.

What has being a parent made you?

Kayleigh x

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When School Demands Get Too Much – Enough of the Dress Up Days Already…

This week is Sport Relief. Great campaign, great cause. On Friday, immersed halfway through the school newsletter (which incidentally only gets sent via email so is often missed) there was a small paragraph instructing parents that children should ‘dress up as their favourite sports star.’ Excellent. Let’s see who my 5 year old daughter’s favourite sports star is shall we?

Answer: Sports star? What is that Mummy? Do they wear actual stars? Right then.

So, in defiance of the school demands and due to the short notice, I sent her in in her school uniform; to show them that no I would absolutely not be dictated to at the last minute like this… Except I didn’t do that. Because obviously the only person losing out then would my daughter.  So again; there I was the night before desperately trying to cobble something together.

Class Assembly Demands

The previous week was worse. ‘Please can the children come in wearing explorer clothes on Friday for the class assembly…’ the email cheerily stated. Erm… What? Ok I’ll just have a dig around in my daughters dressing up box to see what I can find shall I? My 5 year old daughter who owns every single Disney Princess outfit that was ever made. My daughter who quite simply refuses to wear anything other than a dress most days. I’ll have a look to see if I can find a stray explorer hat or khaki cargo suit shall I?!

School demands

You see I’m all for making education fun, I really am. School trips even; great. Admittedly, the letter that states that the cost of the trip is voluntary and then makes it clear that you have to go to the School Business Manager with a 5 page case file about why you can’t pay if you choose not to, is slightly annoying. But still, the trips are educational and important. I get that. But jeez these dressing up days.

World Book Day Demands

I mean, we are only just getting over the stress of World Book Day (revisited obviously – the weather snowed on our parade the first time around). My daughter of course insisted that she go as Matilda as she fell in love with the dress (you see what I mean) that she saw in Tescos (obviously she caught me on a particularly weak, screaming baby and where the hell has the 3 year old gone moment). At the time I was feeling pretty smug as the costume was sorted weeks in advance. Smug until she informed me that she had to have actually read the book of the character she was going as. Shit. Oh god why didn’t I persuade her to go as the Gruffalo? Or Wheres Wally? (even better). So night after night in the weeks leading up to the big day, both my husband and I read chapters of Matilda to her. I’m not sure if anyone has ever tried reading this book to a 5 year old before but honestly, some of the analogies and metaphors in it left even me confused. And on the big day when she arrived at School, everyone just assumed she was Alice in Wonderland anyway. Sigh.

School demands

Too Much?

So why am I ranting about these dress up days? Well, a big bugbear I have with it is the short notice. I mean is there any chance of a bit of a heads up at the start of term maybe guys? Or even a couple of weeks before? Because being a working parent it means I have a job. A job outside of school runs and PTA requests (not that parents that don’t work aren’t busy, as let’s face it, parenting is the hardest most busiest job of all) which means that I cannot drop everything at a days’ notice to run to ‘Knit and Natter’ club to spend hours hand crafting my darling child a costume.

Alongside this, what about the financial element? Ok so we might be in a position where we can (just about) afford to do it, but what about those parents who are not? It’s all very well saying that children can dress up if they want to, but what child wouldn’t want to? What child would choose to set themselves apart from the crowd and come to school in uniform when everyone else was dressed up as explorers, or cowboys or unicorns or whatever the chosen theme for the latest dress up day was? Is this too much pressure on parents to fork out on costumes and props for fear that their child might otherwise be subject of ridicule by their peers for non-conformity? Fingers crossed the next dress up occasion is for the royal wedding as, well, I think we may have that one covered.

What do you think? Are school demands becoming too much? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Kayleigh x

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Interview Tips- 10 Things you Need to Know

You’re sitting in reception waiting. Waiting and waiting and waiting for your interview. You hear the sound of heels clicking down the corridor. Your hands are sweaty (not ideal as you’re definitely going to be shaking hands soon) and your heart is pounding. You quickly gulp down the cup of water you’re holding and dribble it down your front. ExcellentCould this be…? Nope she’s walked past you.

It’s a classic. No matter when you arrive for your interview, you can guarantee that you will be waiting at least 10 minutes before someone comes to get you. 10 minutes (well if you’re lucky, I’ve waited a looong 40 minutes for an interview before) can be a lot of time for self doubt. Did I research the company enough? What are my strengths again? Oh god I can’t remember the MD’s name… By the end of it you will have practically talked yourself out of the door before the thing has even begun.

Unfortunately these days, most jobs have an interview process. Gone are the days where you could just meet the boss and have a little chat over some tepid PG Tips. No, now companies have robust processes, some so vigorous you end up questioning your very existence. It can be especially daunting when, due to having a baby or raising children, you’ve been out of the work game for a while. Therefore I’ve compiled some tips to help give you some confidence about this interviewing shiz.

1. Preparation is key

First and foremost; do as much of this as you can possibly face. Obviously it needs to be within reason. Sitting up until 2am pouring over the company’s 2004 business plan is probably not necessary. However, it might be worth having some pre prepared answers to some of the classic interview questions:

  • What do you know about the company?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses? (Be careful here; employers don’t want to know that you have a tendency to get drunk on two glasses of Pinot – try and make your ‘weakness’ something that can be turned into a positive. For example ‘I can sometimes struggle to delegate my work as I like to see a task through to the end myself’).
  • Why should we employ you?
Interview tips
Starting her out young into the world of work!

Additionally, many employers ask what are known as ‘competency based’ questions. You know, the ones that start with ‘tell me about a time when…’ Often job descriptions will list the key competencies required within the role (for example ‘teamwork’) therefore my best advice here would be to try and focus on the competencies listed and prepare suitable examples for each. If they’re not explicitly written down, some of them may be obvious from the type of role you’re going for. E.g. for a sales role one of the key compentencies is likely to be ‘resilience’.

Remember that ultimately, the more prepared you are, the calmer you will feel.

2. Plan your outfit in advance

Picture the scene: You wake up on the morning of your interview with plenty of time. You smile smugly to yourself as you sit at the breakfast table in your dressing gown, sipping tea. All three children are ready (and actually eating breakfast- shock) the cat is fed, all you need to do is throw on your suit and head out the door. I mean you haven’t actually worn your suit since you were 8 weeks pregnant with number 3 but of course it will fi…. OH CRAP IT DOESN’T FIT! It doesn’t fit! Will it be bad form to rock up in my cereal covered, threadbare dressing gown? 

Clearly this is not ideal. Try and dig out your interview attire a few days before, just to make sure it still fits and isn’t covered in ground-in ginger biscuit crumbs from your days of constant snacking to avoid pregnancy nausea.

Interview tips
3. Don’t arrive too early

Essentially, arriving too early will simply mean you have longer sitting in Reception, smiling awkwardly at anyone who walks past and wishing you hadn’t eaten that garlic infused pasta dish last night. The general etiquette is to aim to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early for an interview but no more than that.

4. Don’t arrive late

Obviously this doesn’t look great. However as we all know, it will of course be on interview day that Mr Bull decides to dig up the road and set up a diversion which takes you 3 times around the M25. Delays happen. Make sure you write down the contact number before you head off, just in case you get stuck in traffic-ing hell or if you have trouble getting the kids out the door.

Interview tips

5. Remember first impressions count

Even if you are feeling about as confident as the day you took your toddler out of the house on day 3 of potty training, try and shake hands as if you already have the job. Evidence suggests that employers make up their mind on candidates in the first 7 minutes of an interview, so make those 7 minutes count.

6. If you don’t have an answer to a question – don’t panic

This can happen, especially if you are feeling particularly nervous. Remember; an interviewer is very unlikely to base a job rejection on the single fact that you failed to answer one question. Do ask them if you can come back to it at the end of the interview though as you may be feeling less nervous and have a clearer head by this point.

7. Sell yourself

It’s awkward. Nobody likes blowing their own trumpet but really, you need to. Especially if you have been out of the work game for a while, you need to show an employer why they should hire you for the role and what exactly they would be missing out on if they didn’t. Why do you stand out from the other candidates? What could you bring to the role/company? What ideas do you have for innovation?

Another tip is to try and sell your skills in line with what you understand the role to be. For example, you’re going for a role as a PA working predominantly under your own steam, it’s no good focusing solely on your outstanding  teamworking abilities. Make sure you up sell your relevant skills.

8. Make sure you have some questions to ask

Because this is something that 99.9% of interviews will end on. This is your chance to not only find out more about the company and the role, but also to show that you are interested in the business and what they do. Well thought out questions will show an employer that you are serious about the role. It might be worth noting a few down before you go in so you don’t end up being put in the spot, with the only question coming to mind being where did the interviewer get her eyebrows done. (Obviously unless it’s a beauty based role in which case this may well be relevant…!)

pexels-photo-356079.jpeg

 9. Ask when they will let you know the outcome

There’s nothing worse than leaving an interview with the belief that you will find out your fate the next day, only to hear nothing for over a week. Then, upon your (carefully constructed, enthusiastic but obviously not desperate chasing email) you are told that of course you wont hear anything yet, the MD is sunning himself with a Pina Colada in the Bahamas for a week. Make sure you ask what sort of timeframes they are looking at.

10. Remember interviews are a two way process

Finally and most importantly; the company needs to be the right fit for you too. Make sure you find out the important things like pay and working hours and ensure that they work for you and your family. There is no point accepting a job with the belief that you will be able to fit work around the school run, only to find out that the role is 9-6pm every day with a non negotiable trip to Azerbaizan every month.

Do you have any tips to add? I’d love to hear them!

Kayleigh X

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Third time lucky? The Great Third Child Debate

You only have to do a quick Google search to realise the extent of the third baby conundrum. Do I go for a third or stick to two? Is three a crowd? Is three children much harder work than having two? I’m going to be honest, I was one of the Googlers. For a long time we debated the issue. We spoke about it on holiday, we spoke about it on the few date nights we had, we even spoke about it in raised voices during a trip to soft play hell. But still we couldn’t decide.

Pushing our luck

You see having three children felt a bit like we were pushing our luck, being greedy – I mean we already had two healthy kids didn’t we, maybe we would be better to just be thankful for that? But that nagging broodiness kept getting the better of me (to be honest, I’m not even sure why – I hate being pregnant and I’m not overly keen on newborns). Eventually we decided that we knew we wouldn’t regret having a third (I mean, nobody can look at their child and actually regret it right?) but chances are we might regret not doing it. So we went for it.

Throughout my pregnancy I carried on googling. My time was spent flitting between excitement and sheer panic. What had we done? How was I going to get three kids out the house? In the car? Take them anywhere on my own? I had visions of me holding a baby under one arm whilst chasing the 3 year old round Tescos and then losing the 5 year old and having to get the lady on the tannoy involved to publicly announce my hopelessness. (To be fair, the Tescos vision wasn’t too far off, except the 5 year old has yet to actually get lost; no, I’ve become that cringey mum who screams like a fishwife down the aisles with either threats of blackmail or pleading bribery).

Three is the magic number

So, this is for all those people still googling. Having 3 children is hard work. Harder than Google tells you. Going from 2 to 3 is not easier than going from 1 to 2, its carnage. There is always someone who needs something from you and leaving the house takes on a new level of stress (like it wasn’t bad enough before). Oh and the night times. Some nights my house actually feels like a circus (without the popcorn – although I have been known to snack in the middle of the night I’m up for so long) we are up and down so much.

HOWEVER it is also brilliant. It’s fun, it’s messy and it’s loud. Watching the older two with their baby sister has often brought a tear to my eye (in a good way this time- although I’ll admit to sliding down the wall crying on rough days, but this is the positive paragraph so I’ll leave it there!) the relationship they are forming is truly adorable and the older the baby gets, the more the bigger girls delight in her, celebrating her accomplishments with the same (completely over the top) joy that we do. Equally seeing the baby’s face when she sees her sisters upon their return from a day at School or nursery melts my heart. The thought of them all growing up together (no doubt sharing tips on how to get one over on me) also makes me smile inwardly.

Three children

So in hindsight, would I make the same decision again to have a third baby? Absolutely. It’s bloody hard work but if you think having one child is rewarding, times that by 3 and then some. One word of advice though: Brace yourself!

Kayleigh X

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How to Leave the House (with kids)

This might seem a ridiculous topic for a blog post, especially one coming from a blog striving to be about working parents. But given that in many cases (no not all; flexible working and all that) you do actually need to leave the house to go to work, I felt it to be sort of important. And well, once you have kids, leaving the house becomes more than just opening the front door and walking out. It becomes a thing. 

For me, leaving the house requires at least an hour and a half of preparation. It requires a process. Maybe one of these days I’ll create a SOP (Standard Operating Procedure for those of you fortunate enough not to have been subjected to hours of business streamline training) for leaving the house. For now though, here is my step by step guide to getting you and your kids out of the house in a stress free and timely manner (that’s a joke by the way; as long as you have young children, the chances of you walking out the door without your blood boiling are slim to none).

1. Get your shit together the night before

Pack the baby’s bag, make your lunch and above all, sort clothes out for everyone. This is important and saves at least 10 minutes of morning faffing and furious tornado-ing through the airing cupboard of doom, trying to find matching socks for the baby. (Side note- what are the rules here? I often wear mismatched socks as I tend to keep my shoes on, but is this ok for the baby or is this a total parenting fail? Like a beaming badge of my disorganisation?)

2. Get up

Sounds pretty basic but really, you do actually need to get up. Don’t use that extra 10 minutes of time you saved by adhering to point 1 to have 10 more minutes in bed, it might feel good now but YOU WILL REGRET THIS BY POINT 5!

3. Teach your kids to get dressed by themselves

This absolutely does NOT entail them choosing their own clothes. No way. Trying to make a bargain with the toddler that she can wear her mermaid tail and sunglasses combo when she gets home, but no they are not practical for nursery, will add on at least an additional 20 minutes to your morning (please refer again to point 1).

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4. Breakfast needs to be speedy

Invest in a breakfast cereal that your kids will actually eat. If they don’t like cereal make them a fruit feast (ideally the night before obviously – refer to trusty point 1). If they don’t like fruit then give them a yogurt. If they don’t like that, (seriously what the hell do they actually eat?) game over. Your kids need to eat breakfast quickly to make this thing work. You do not have time to be giving your 3 year old mouthful by mouthful encouragement.

5. Hair

Oh the hair. Now depending on the length/style of your child/children’s hair this could be the difference between you skipping out the door with a smug smile on your face or storming out in rage and forgetting your handbag (with your keys in obviously, so you cant go back in to get it). I have girls. Girls with long, curly, tangly hair and demands for French Plaits and Dutch Braids (YouTube tutorials by the way – you’re welcome). My best advice here is to try and plait whilst they eat. If this is a no-go as plaiting stops eating (see point 4 – they must eat quickly) then plaits need to be saved for weekends or non-working days. You do not have time for that shit. Plus in my experience, the more you plait, the more they cry = the angrier you get. If all else fails, bribe with a biscuit (as lets face it, they are probably hungry from not eating breakfast anyway).

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6. Ensure everyone has been to the toilet

This is crucial as in theory it should avoid the classic ‘I need a wee’ wail once you are all coated up and belted into the car and just about to pull off the drive. Or worse still having to clean up accidents in your work suit. Not ideal.

7. Shoes

Think carefully when buying shoes for your kids. Those lace up converse trainers may look cute but how many 3 year olds can actually tie laces? Erm not mine that’s for sure. BUY VELCRO. Or wellies. Wellies are great for every occasion. Above all, most kids older than the age of two can get them on themselves. This is what you need. Although it might be best to curb it in the hot summer months, unless you’re going for the festival-chic look which can obviously look cute, but then will make you wish you’d done plaits to get the full effect and… don’t do it! (SEE POINT 5).

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8. Pretend to be happy

This is the final point from me on how to leave the house and is critical to your mood for the rest of the day. Even if you are angrier than the angry man from the tango advert circa 1993 (does anyone actually remember that guy or why he was even angry?) Even if you’ve shouted at your kids all morning; do not and I repeat DO NOT shout at them in the car or in the last 5 minutes before you drop them off. All you will remember ALL DAY are their sad, indignant little faces. By 10 am you will be feeling like the world’s worst mother and by 2pm you will be ready to leave work and pick them up early to compensate for your previous, unacceptable behaviour. (Obviously by 6pm the witching hour will have struck and you will be back to being shouty-mum but that’s fine, you have hours before you need to leave them again).

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So there we go. How to leave the house. Tune in next time for more advice on dealing with things that are now things. Next up: packing the car up to go away for the night (that one’s for you hubby :-))

Kayleigh x

Tammymum

 

When it all goes wrong – Discrimination at Work

We all know that being a working parent is hard, but what about when your employer makes it harder, if not bloody impossible for you to succeed all because you’re a parent, specifically a working mum? As a HR professional I’d like to say that this doesn’t happen in today’s society, but sadly that’s not the case and there are all too many stories that prove it.

With International Women’s Day coming up on the 8th March it is clear that the progress that has been made with regards to equality in the workplace is vast. However statistics show that it’s still not enough. Whether it’s trying to dismiss you because you are pregnant or replacing you whilst you are on maternity leave, it’s a sad fact that recent stats suggest that nearly half of working mums feel discriminated against by their employers, either during their pregnancy or upon their return to work.

There are many reasons why employers treat mothers or mothers to be differently in the workplace. Maybe it’s because your boss’s wife was a stay at home mum who kept the house immaculatly clean and made banana bread and home baked focaccia every day and he can’t see why you would even dream of coming back to work. Maybe it’s because your company are worried about health and safety implications of having a pregnant staff member and don’t want to land themselves in hot water. Maybe it’s because one of your team members have complained that you having time off to look after your poorly child is having a negative impact on the team (erm hello, clearing up a 3 year old’s vomit in 20 minute intervals throughout the day isn’t having a great impact on me either mate). Whatever the reason, discrimination against women in the workplace happens.

But that doesn’t mean that it is something that we should accept. Hell to the no.

The Facts

Knowledge is power as they say, so here are some of the key facts on your rights and what exactly constitutes as discrimination.

You cannot be penalised for absence that relates to your pregnancy

Pregnancy related sickness cannot be used against you or used as a reason for disciplinary action. For more information on your rights as a pregnant worker, see my previous post on this here.

You have the right to return to the same terms and conditions following your maternity leave

If you return to work within the first 6 months of your maternity leave (known as Ordinary Maternity Leave) you are entitled to return to the same job (as well as the same terms and conditions etc.) If you return to work in the following 6 months (Additional Maternity Leave) you are entitled to return to the same job, unless your employer can prove that it is not reasonably practical for this to happen, in which case you must be offered a suitable alternative. See my previous post on this here.

You are allowed time off to care for dependants

Dependants can include your spouse, partner, child, grandchild, parent or otherwise, someone who relies on you for care (although I think your family Hamster might be pushing it). As an employee you are allowed a reasonable amount of time off to deal with an emergency situation involving dependants. Sadly this doesn’t extend to School plays and those bloody middle of the week Open Days (I’m still not over this one clearly – see my previous post featuring my Open Day fail here) but a breakdown in childcare arrangements do count. Your employer must not treat you unfairly for taking this time off otherwise it could be classed as discrimination.

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Your employer must handle all flexible working requests in a reasonable manner

This means that they cannot turn down your request simply because they don’t like the idea of you sprinting out of the door early to pick up your children- there must be a solid business reason for the refusal. In addition, your employer cannot force you to change your working hours without your consent, unless your contract explicitly states that your working hours may be changed from time to time (however even then they are on dodgy ground).

It is illegal for your employer to pay you less than a man doing the same job

You’re working your ass off being the best employee you can be and then legging it home to make dinner time crumpets for the kids (it’s fine, they had a hot meal at school and errr crumpets are hot anyway right?) and then you get wind that Gloaty Glenn who has the same job title as you gets paid more. What gives?! Unfortunately this is too often the case (you must have seen the BBC equal pay scandal) however, the fact of the matter is, it is discrimination for an employer to pay a woman less for doing the same or similar work to a man. With new laws now in place meaning that large companies have to report on the gap in pay between genders, hopefully some inroads will be made here but the issue is still a big one.

What to do if you are being treated unfairly

Ok great, so you’re are armed with the facts but your employer is still making your life a living hell- what do you do next?

Have a word

I realise that in some cases, this is easier said than done, especially if the discrimination you are faced with is by your manager or worse the company director. However I would always suggest that if you can, this would be the first step to try and navigate. Obviously the main reason being that the situation may well be resolved in this manner. The offending person may not have realised the negative impact their behaviour was having on you – you may even get an apology – happy days!

Raise a Grievance

Your little chat fell of deaf ears – its time to go formal. Raising a grievance means your employer must go through a proper process and investigate the matter. Most employers will have a policy in place outlining their procedures, but if not its worth checking out the ACAS guidance on this here. Obviously if all goes to plan your grievance will be upheld and the discrimination acknowledged and put a stop to. However even if not, an employment tribunal (if it gets that far- hopefully not!) will always look to see whether you’ve taken all possible steps to try and resolve the matter, so even if the outcome to your grievance has not gone in your favour, going through the process may be helpful to you later on. You shouldn’t be victimised by your employer for raising a grievance as this would count as discrimination. Obviously.

Citizens Advice Bureau

It was many years before I actually realised that the CAB offered more than just maps of the local area and advice on what is on this week at the town hall. Turns out they actually offer employment advice too (who knew?) You can find a link to their website here, or alternatively you can give them a call to get some advice over the phone.

Seek Legal Advice

Sounds expensive and it can be. However most employment solicitors will offer at least a 30 minute phone call free of charge. In that time they should be able to assess whether you are actually being discriminated against or whether the employer is acting appropriately, as well as offer you some basic advice.

ACAS

ACAS have a free helpline available to employees (and employers) on all aspects of employment law. Although they cannot advise you on what to do, they can give you an idea of whether your particular situation is classed as discrimination. There is also heaps of information available on their website.

So now you have the information, there’s very little chance of you being discriminated against right? Er no. Sadly not. But hopefully this post will help you to understand not only what constitutes as discrimination, but also, what the hell to do about it. The fact of the matter is though that speaking out against employers isn’t easy, especially when we sorta need to work to feed the kids and all that. What is clear though is that social media has been a crucial platform in helping to press forwards with gender parity.

There are many influencers running amazing campaigns to get the issue in the spotlight and employers to sit up and take note. If you are not already doing so, it’s is definitely worth giving @pregnant_then_screwed a follow on Instagram for some very interesting stories as well as excellent advice. She also has a helpline offering legal advice if you think you are being discriminated against and don’t know what to do next.

Additionally, if there is anything I haven’t covered or you would like further information on, please do let me know via the contact form.

Right, I’m off to buy some sort of heavily emblazoned, feminist slogan T-shirt for International Women’s Day this week…

Kayleigh x

Bringing up Georgia

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