Member's Blog | 1230 TWC - Part 4

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Balancing the Bump – Flexible working requests

Annabel: Parents with children under 17 have the right to make a flexible working request. This can be a request for a change of hours, time of work, or location (e.g. home working). Requests are usually for shorter hours, or some element of home working (or both). Although these are called ‘flexible working’ requests, once granted they form the basis of a revised contract, and they do not usually give rise to a right to work ‘flexibly whenever I can or need to’.

Laura: Many women make flexible working requests during their maternity leave so that they can return to work on shorter hours. With childcare so expensive, most parents are calculating how much each partner earns versus the cost of childcare. If your employer offers childcare vouchers, snap them up as they are still good value for money, and can save you money, even though the rules and tax savings have recently changed. Just ask your place of work about the scheme, or ask for one to be set up.

Annabel: While it is very important for parents to work out how they will care for their child, I am often astonished at how little thought has gone into the flexible working request. When a parent makes a formal request, the legal requirements are that it (1) is in writing; (2) states that it is a statutory request for a contract variation, and explains how you qualify for the right; (3) states whether a previous application has been made; (4) sets out the changes wanted, and when it is proposed they become effective; (5) explains what effect the parent thinks the change will have on the employer, and how that change could be dealt with.
Whilst many parents complain that their requests are rejected unfairly, I see requests that never could work in organisational terms. The key to success is to go beyond just what you want, and figure out how to make it work for your boss.

Laura: The emotional stress of having a baby – be it a euphoric positive effect or depressive episode – usually takes women by surprise. Becoming a mother is a massive change to a working woman, the way they think, feel and behave may change with the stress, and this can lead some Mums to feel that they are being unfairly treated when they aren’t (some are!) because they don’t think of the business, just of their new baby and how they have the extra responsibility to juggle with a career.

If the money is reduced as a consequence of changing to part time hours, it suddenly becomes unfair in an emotional way because the Mum can feel that the company is literally stealing from the mouths of babes. The secret for the employer is communicate, communicate, communicate . . . get the full picture and understand why a reasonable, hard working, loyal employee has suddenly made an odd or difficult request (if that is what it seems like) and help and support her to do what is right for her and her career. If she knows the company is looking after her, especially in this economic climate, she is likely to return, find her feet and flourish again in her career.

Annabel: It is important to come up with a proposal that works for your boss and to ‘sell’ it to them so they can see how it could work for them. If you just walk in there and say “the crèche hours mean I have to leave at 4pm every day and never work Mondays or Fridays”, then you are not giving anyone any reason to work with you on this. If you go in with, “I have looked at our department and the peak hours of customer demand are (x to y, day to day) and I can be available for all those hours but I would like to be off from 4pm every day when there are normally more than enough staff to cope “ – then that is a different proposition.

When your new baby is the entire focus of your existence, it can be hard to imagine that anything needs to be said other than what they need. But, in the world of work, getting the job done and satisfying the customers has to come into it. Of course, we can’t all work 3 days a week, school hours only. And if there are already other people in your role who do that, it may make it increasingly difficult for your boss to agree to you working similarly, unless you come up with a really good plan to make it work.

Laura: Well said – Be realistic – It’s how you present your case. Be honest, think it through very carefully, test childcare arrangements, think of all the reasons your employer may not be able to accommodate your request, and be proactive with solutions. Make sure that it will work for your family, think it through, get the right advice – it doesn’t matter what your neighbour or parents think they don’t know your situation, only you do.

If you can – speak to other people in the department that manage flexible working successfully, take them for a coffee and get the real picture for your company – ups and downs and how they manage things. It is logistics not emotions that count, and if you agree to something you can’t fulfil further down the line, then everyone suffers.

Annabel: Don’t be over ambitious in what you propose. If you exhaust yourself and really mess up your job, you can put yourself under enormous pressure. You need to be realistic about what you can achieve within the given time/arrangements. I often come across women who get part time working, but then work full time and more to keep up with the targets and goals they have agreed to. If you go part time, you will be on part time money. Be realistic about what can be achieved in the working time that you have.

Do you have a query that you’d like Laura or Annabel to answer? Follow this link and post your question for them –

(c)2011 copyright Irenicon Ltd and BabyLadies Ltd respectively. All rights reserved

Posted by on 26/07/2011 09:48:00

Take your foot off the gas!

We live in an age of high speed communication, multi tasking and information overload where life has changed in one generation and is now conducted at a hurtling pace with demands my mother would have found inconceivable.

Our nervous systems are so over stimulated by these demands, relaxation time is never truly relaxing and time out to think creatively can be impossible because our brains are still thinking about what we haven’t done or what there is to do.

When I ask the people I coach or counsel to write out the amount of tasks or commitments they expect to fulfil in one week, you can almost see their heads spin like Tim Burton when he played Beetlejuice! Try it, see how far you get. Include everything from dog walking, commuting, changing your energy supplier etc.etc.

This life is making people sick.The number of people coming to me with stress issues, failing relationships and unhappy teenagers has doubled.

So, in the last two years I have been working with Benedictine monks, Deepak Chopra and Reiki masters to help my clients restore balance in their lives and create a safe calm place where they can think through ‘their’ priorities in life and not those thrust upon us by the media,peer pressure or another self help book on achievement, and goal setting.

If you feel guilty, stressed, bad, a failure, anxious, angry, vindictive, depressed, unwell, actually you are showing a normal response to living a life which is attempting to meet expectations which are not yours. Of course we all will be expected to fulfil others expectations or deliver results in line with our responsibilities but taken to excess,or unrealistic, these expectations start to become damaging.

So, this week, pick one thing you can let go. Say no to a request. Edit your Facebook site. Take your foot off the gas. Go slower, get better, get freer. be you.

Posted by on 26/07/2011 11:35:09

Balancing the Bump – Redundancy and maternity

Annabel: While women are making their maternity plans and working out how to return full time, make a flexible working request and so on, employers themselves are making plans and responding to events. Recently a lot of those plans have included redundancy.

Laura: It is a really tough time for everyone at the moment. I had an enquiry recently from a small business owner who was so worried about a member of staff announcing her pregnancy. As part of her job role she needed to lift heavy items and he didn’t have an alternative role. The ironic thing was that the woman no longer wanted to work there and was really stressing about how to tell them that she wanted to leave. In a smaller environment it pays to talk early on.

Annabel: We often get employers trying to use redundancy as a way round a difficult situation. Redundancy is a form of dismissal, and if it is not done for genuine reasons, it can lead to unfair dismissal, even discrimination claims. There are a lot of myths out there about who is entitled to what. Some pregnant women believe they can’t be dismissed for redundancy or anything else. Some managers know that women on maternity leave have additional rights but aren’t sure what.

Laura: There is certainly a belief that once you are pregnant and have announced it you can’t be ‘touched.’ My experience is that companies, although more sensitive to the possibility of a lawyer’s letter, will still make a pregnant member of staff redundant if they have a valid case to do so. It may seem insensitive, but it is no worse than letting go a new father that is also responsible for a family income. These decisions are rarely taken lightly. What pregnancy can’t be is an excuse to make someone redundant because they can’t do the job they are paid to do.

Annabel: We often get employers discovering that the maternity locum is better than the regular employee, or that life is so much easier without a particular individual, but without a good record of problems and attempts to remedy them, any rapid action is bound to end in a tribunal claim. Maternity leave is a moment when a lot of performance management issues` come home to roost’ and earlier failure to tackle problems in real time can cause complications. It is bound to appear that pregnancy is the real issue if there is nothing to contradict this, and let’s face it, sometimes it is.

Laura: So are there any special rights for pregnant women, or are they just entitled to be treated the same as everyone else?

Annabel: From conception to return to work at the end of maternity leave, women are protected from being treated worse than non pregnant females or male colleagues because of their pregnancy. A pregnant woman caught red handed for theft for example could not say her dismissal was because of her pregnancy. A woman can be treated appropriately for her actions or the status of her role whilst pregnant. That means she can be put at risk of, or even selected for redundancy.

Laura: Is that it? Why do we hear such a fuss about this in the media then?

Annabel: Women do have additional redundancy rights once they start maternity leave. During the entire period they are entitled to be offered a suitable alternative role if vacant. Ordinary employees at risk of redundancy are entitled to be considered for alternative roles, which means they come second in the queue. Offers should be made during maternity leave. The woman will then be on leave from her new role. Employers who wait until the time to return and then find all their alternative roles are gone may find themselves on the wrong end of a tribunal claim.

Do you have a query that you’d like Laura or Annabel to answer? Follow this link and post your question for them –

Posted by on 22/07/2011 12:39:15

Social Media?

As the last taster workshop with Heather Bond at the 1230 Bromley meeting was on “Blogging” I thought I would do another Blog here.

I find all this Social Media quite time consuming and wondered if any one had some advice as to how I can get better organised to keep up with it all.

I am working hard at the moment on my second Website for the publication of my Book “Birth Made Easy” on 7th October by The HotHive. It should be in the shops and on Amazon by 1st November. My book is still taking up quite a bit of time too.

Therefore I really do have little spare time at the moment with seeing lots of clients too so any suggestions would really help me.
Thank you

Posted by on 22/07/2011 20:51:03

Balancing the Bump – Working mums still prefer part time work

The National Statistics Office published its figures about maternity, motherhood and the workplace today. Some interesting things to ponder when we are all trying to manage parenthood in the workplace.

The majority of women with children under 16 are in the workplace (65%). Women with younger children are less likely to be in the workplace in the first few years.

Women with partners are even more likely to be in the workplace (71.8%). It is women without partners who are less likely to be in the workplace (55.4%). Women with young children and no partner are a significant proportion of the statistics – as the children get older, single parents are more likely to be back in the workplace.

Women are having children later, so the age of Mum’s in the workplace is increasing. So far, the recession has increased unemployment amongst young women, who despite the rumours, are the least likely to be mothers.

23.1% of women with children under sixteen work full time , and 37.7% work part time. Part time work is still the most popular option for working mothers.

After that, 13.7% of mothers have got some kind of ‘flexible working arrangement’ (compared to 12.3% of women without children). The most popular flexible working arrangement is term time working (12.7% of women with children) and a distant second favourite is annual hours contracts (4.3%).

Only 1.3% of women with children have a job sharing arrangement, which is only fractionally more than women who have ‘on call’ working arrangements (1.2%).

From this, there seems to be a big gap between government regulation, employer concerns and what is really going on. This seems to match our hotline experience.

It seems that women returning from maternity leave really do want to return part time, and that job share arrangements are almost as rare as gold dust. Employers are plainly struggling to provide a range of return to work options, relying on part time working or nothing at all as their plan for retaining working mothers.
Source of statistics – Office for National Statistics

Do you have a query that you’d like Laura or Annabel to answer? Follow this link and post your question for them –

Posted by on 18/07/2011 09:54:38

When’s the best time to plant a tree?

A friend of mine has organised an event called “who will you be in 5 years time?” Sadly its not in Spain, however this got me thinking about the 100s of possibilities for the journey as well as the arrival (a goal without a plan is just a wish).

What would Costa Women or my business look like? What about you? Maybe you would have moved up the corporate ladder, or taken an idea and turned it into a successful business, or perhaps you will have sold your business and have moved on to your next project? What would your relationship status be? Perhaps you will have married, or finally ended a destructive relationship and be free to move on with your life? Would you have children, grand children? Where will you be living? How will you be dressed, look and behave? Will you have finally cracked the healthy campaign and be enjoying more energy, better sleep patterns and carrying less weight about (both physical and emotional)?

As we get older 5 years can come and go in a flash so I plan on giving this some head room over the next few weeks.
Oh and when’s the best time to plant a tree? 10 years ago… when’s the next time NOW! Off to plant my tree; care to join me?

Posted by on 18/07/2011 14:28:35

Balancing the Bump – Keeping it simple and Keep in Touch

Annabel: As entitlement to maternity leave has increased, women increasingly run the risk of losing touch with their workplace during their one year absence. One attempt to remedy this was Keeping in Touch days (KITs), introduced in 2007. We started to write an article about what they were and how they could be used, but we walked straight into a typical Government induced muddle.
Laura: It makes good sense to keep in touch with a new mother. Fostering good communication and helping to facilitate an easy return to work (both emotionally and financially) will mean that when she does come back to work she is happy and able to do a good job. But in reality using KITs can cause stress, humiliation and offence.
Annabel: A woman can ‘work’ up to 10 days within her maternity leave period (except in the protected two weeks after birth) without triggering the end of her maternity leave. These are KITs. Men on additional paternity leave will also have KITs. However, any hour’s work done on any day is a whole KIT ‘day’. So, if you do one hour’s work on each of ten days you have used all your allowance, and working on another day could trigger an end to your statutory maternity pay.
Laura: I always understood that doing any work on a KIT meant you had to be paid for the whole day – how come we two professionals have completely different ideas about this? No wonder women and their employers get confused!
Annabel: A day’s KIT is not the same as a day’s work, so there is no rule that says if a woman does an hour’s work she is entitled to be paid for the whole day. I can see how people get in a muddle, but using up your allowance, and how many hours you are paid for are two entirely different things.
Laura: The EHRC website says that the rate of pay and duties are something for agreement between the employer and the employee.
Annabel: I have read and re-read the statute and regulations and I don’t see that. The Employment Rights Act 1996 says a woman is not entitled to be paid her normal pay when she is absent on maternity leave, but when you are having a KIT day you are not absent! Even with agreement, I am not convinced that this would get employers out of National Minimum Wage or discrimination problems if the reason for the lower rate is related to pregnancy.
Laura: So you can the employer ask the employee to do any duties?
Annabel: Women are not obliged to agree to any KIT days but KIT days are set up so they can do their normal contractual work, or training, or for communication – so making you clean the toilets if you don’t normally do it, is not something you’d expect to be asked to do on a KIT day.
Laura: In my experience KIT days can be badly used. One example I have is of a senior employee who was asked to come back in for a team meeting, which lasted a couple of hours, and then her manager insisted that she had to do a full day’s work for her pay and had her stuffing envelopes to fill in the time – totally de-motivating.
Laura and Annabel: This can only get worse while the Government tinkers with regulations on how to share maternity leave between parents. Would it be too much to ask for someone to clear up this mess while they are doing it? Employers shouldn’t have to guess which law trumps another!
If you would like a discounted one hour one to one with Laura (Feb/Mar 2011) to help make your maternity plan you can save £175 on an introductory one to one at Laura’s clinic in London at the Monument. Mention FMWF or Balancing the Bump. Call 020 7283 8908 to book an appointment.
If you are at risk of redundancy and about to start maternity leave (or on it), click here to join us for this FREE KoffeeKlatch on 24 February 2011 @ 11am GMT to talk about the additional rights you have and how to make them work for you
Do you have a query that you’d like Laura or Annabel to answer? Follow this link and post your question for them –

Posted by on 11/07/2011 09:55:41

Preparing for maternity leave/birth – childcare issues

Annabel: There is no doubt about it that having a baby is a very big event in a woman’s life. From an employer’s point of view though, it is can be just another thing they need to work around and deal with. Some employers find this really difficult to deal with on a practical level and uncertainty about whether a woman will really return from leave a year later can make some bosses withdraw from the relationship. This can make the woman feel she is not welcome to return and set off a spiral of ‘disengagement’ that can make it hard for both parties.
Laura: Having a good handover and return to work plan can really help. Discuss this with your boss and showing that you are planning to make things as easy for them as you can.. Keep talking – even when you are on leave. If you don’t get on with your boss get someone in your office that you trust to keep you up to speed with changes and projects.
Annabel: Your boss is not the only person you may find yourself liaising with at this point. Whenever your baby is due your partner is entitled to up to two weeks’ paternity leave. They can take this to coincide with the birth or within the next eight weeks. They need to sort this out with their boss and make the appropriate requests. If your baby is due after 3 April 2011, your partner may also take up to six months additional paternity leave if you return from maternity leave early. In a nutshell, he can take the rest of your leave (to a maximum of six months) when you go back to work … and if you go back to work before your statutory maternity pay is finished, he will also get paid (at the same rate and for the same period as your outstanding statutory maternity pay). Your partner has to give at least eight weeks notice to their employer before they can start the leave, and there are other processes to go through and conditions that he must meet. You have to give at least eight weeks notice if you want to come back before your year is up. Although you don’t have to do this before the baby is born, you need to start talking about what you want to do, how it will affect you financially and emotionally. If you really are planning for your partner to take the final six months of leave, then it would be a good idea to mention this informally to your boss so they know that you may want to come back early and make suitable cover arrangements.
Laura: I have one client in particular who is waiting for the Paternity leave to be extended in order to start a family. They cannot wait to start a family and it makes far more financial sense for him to be the main caregiver. However without the new paternity rights it would have been difficult for him to take the extra leave and return to his job. I am excited by the changes which I feel will really benefit family units. Both partners get to experience the highs and lows of being a parent and will be far more supportive of their partner knowing the full story. More families are having to adapt to a new way of working and roles are no longer clearly defined in the home. Even feeding breast milk can be continued (although in a bottle) when Mum is away as companies become even better at providing facilities to express milk for nursing mothers.
Would you like someone to talk you through calculating your maternity start date?. Download our presentation for £1 – profits will be donated to Ovacome the Ovarian Cancer Charity. Follow this link

Posted by on 08/07/2011 16:06:42

An offer from Wisewolf – A simple but very effective form of personal and professional development.

Coaching is a simple but very effective form of self development – either professional or personal.

The client and coach work together to promote a change and to help the client become who they want to be; to overcome obstacles to their success.

Coaches work with individuals in their personal life and with executives, managers and others in their professional and business life. I work with people in the round so I don’t draw a big black line round the personal to distinguish it from the professional, the two often overlap!

But I do work with change and transition. If you are not going through a change and don’t want to make one, then perhaps I wouldn’t be the right person to work with you.

Many of us have plans about what we want to do, who we want to be and what we want to become. A coach works with you to find out what is important and how to create the conditions that foster it.

Coaching builds skills; both personal and professional.

It is about growth; both personal and professional.

I started my professional life qualifying as a nurse. I have many years of experience of working with people and organizations going through all kinds of change and transition. And somewhere along the way I did undertake professional training in change management.

You may be starting a new business, or wanting to improve the way that you communicate with other people. Or perhaps you want to change your business. Perhaps you need to deal with a difficult supplier or a difficult business relationship. Then working with a coach could help you on to the next step.

If you are facing a change in your business life or you want to make one, you may wish to take advantage of a special offer.

For a limited period I am offering a FREE half hour telephone coaching session to members here

If you would like to take advantage of this, please email me at

If you would like to know more about my professional background, you can find it on LinkedIn at

Posted by on 01/07/2011 16:41:36

What good is Twitter? It’s only for social use, it’s only for business use……

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve attended meetings where I’ve heard “I only use Twitter socially, definitely not for business”, “I don’t use Twitter, will never use Twitter”, “my clients come to me through personal contact only” and “I’m proud to say I don’t use Twitter”.

Interesting. On Saturday, within the space of less than one hour, I’d made 3 really useful contacts and all I’d done was put out a request on Twitter for a personally recommended venue.

Actually, the initial contacts were made within seconds. Here’s what happened.

Mark Shaw, Twitter Guru extraordinaire runs the free lead generation service – @msrfr (Mark Shaw’s request for a recommendation service) – what better place for 1230 TWC to seek help in finding a suitable, personally recommended venue for a 1230 TWC meeting. I sent out “anyone personally recommend restaurant for lunchtime meetings, West End #London which values networkers #msrfr

Back came 2 responses – one from Kevin Coughlan of C.Elect Electrical Services Ltd, and one from Mike Briercliffe of Mike Both of which I followed up by looking at the recommended venues’ web sites. The one recommended by Kevin looked good and was more the required locality. But I will be visiting both venues.

Looking at this venue web site I spotted a typo, sorry, but it’s a bit of a thing with me. Having nothing better to do this rainy Saturday, lol! I let the web developer know about the typo. I was thanked with a brilliant social media map, and another typo! Oh dear, what to do……. Well, you’ve guessed it; I let him know about that one too! And then posted on Twitter as to whether the web developer would appreciate my letting him know about the 2 typos.

Back came Andrew Palmer, said web developer and it would seem, web developer and video businessman extraordinaire, whilst thanking me, I felt was a slightly less than happy response I thought. Oooopsy. Oh dear, I was just being helpful I thought – I’d want to know, but to be fair, wouldn’t necessarily be happy about being told by a stranger. Anyway, I explained to Andrew the how’s and why’s and being the super chap he is, it would seem I have a permanent spell-checking role (just teasing) plus, and more importantly, 3 extremely helpful and delightful contacts 2 of whom I will shortly be meeting – all through Twitter! Thanks Guys!

So, what good is Twitter? Need I ask?…….


Posted by on 21/06/2011 09:01:10