• Work Hard
  • 5th Apr 2024
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  • 4 minutes

Are term time hours the future of work?

By Jo Dunbar

The government keeps making childcare promises as parents continue to juggle work with childcare but one North East employer has gone the other way.

The expense and scarcity of childcare is well-known and ultimately mothers pay the price. Research from the Fawcett Society has found that a quarter of a million women nationwide have stepped away from work due to the cost and difficulties balancing professional and parental responsibilities.

And while flexible working is something workers can request by law, there’s no guarantee that a workplace will honour the request.

So far, so stressful.

Jacksons Law Firm in Newcastle is the first to offer term-time employment to lawyers meaning the juggle of school holidays is no longer a stress point. Clearly, the need is huge because the job description citing term time employment saw three times the normal number of applicants as parents needing more flexibility applied for the role.

Erica Turner, who is partner and head of commercial property at Jacksons Law Firm says: “Very pleasingly there was a good mix of men and women. It is clear that dads value time with their children just as much as mums. We likely saw a huge number of applicants on the basis that the term time concept is a completely new and somewhat unusual offering for a professional services firm like ours.”

Critics might think productivity may suffer but, so far, Erica disagrees: “We have seen, to date, that employees on term time arrangements are extremely productive in the knowledge that they want to progress matters as efficiently as possible given that they will be absent for a number of weeks in the year.”

Easing the juggle

But what prompted Jacksons Law Firm to design and advertise such a job role? Erica explains: “The term time hours appointment concept arose as we were looking for an associate level solicitor and it is often the level that prospective employees have young children. We wanted to offer something which was different which met the needs of the prospective employee as well as the needs of the firm. I don’t have children, but I have seen how difficult life can be juggling a demanding career as well as trying to be the best parent possible.”

While term time work patterns sound ideal for parents, and means companies are expanding their talent pool, how do the rest of the workforce respond? Shelley Briggs is Head of HR at scarlettabbott. Shelley says there are positives and negatives to consider from a term time hours working arrangement. Namely, avoiding a ‘us and them’ culture by ensuring there are clear protocols surrounding annual leave and workload during school holidays.

In Shelley’s professional opinion, employers offering more flexibility is the future of work:

“We’ll undoubtedly see more sectors introducing more flexible working patterns, albeit in many shapes and forms. The childcare sector is grappling with a recruitment crisis that impacts both childcare availability and flexibility, coupled with the introduction of the free entitlement for 15 hours of childcare for children aged 9 months and above starting in September 2024.

This is increasing a demand for places and making access to childcare for working parents extremely difficult, with most parents finding they are having to take what’s on offer rather than what they require.”

The future is flexible

By law parents can ask for different working hours and traditional working patterns often don’t fit a family’s needs. Shelley adds, “The enactment of the Employment Rights Bill on April 6 grants employees the right to submit flexi-working requests from their first day of employment and up to twice annually.

It underscores the urgent need for companies to prioritise and enhance their flexible employment offerings.”

Erica, meanwhile, believes other companies will follow suit following Jacksons Law Firm’s trailblazing appointment: “It is anticipated that some other firms will be waiting to see how this has worked for us before embarking upon the change themselves.

The system is working well for us: we have a team which is large enough to cover client matters when the term time worker is absent. The fact that we can offer these positions to employees creates a diverse and effective workforce.”

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Laura Kingston
Founder and Editor

Laura is the Founder and Editor of High Life North. She had the idea to set up an exclusively digital women’s magazine after feeling there was a gap in the market in the North East. With over 10 years of experience in marketing and PR, Laura had a very clear…


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