THE FLEXI CAM­PAIGN­ERS

Anna White­house, 37, Matt Far­quhar­son, 42, AKA @moth­er­pukka and @pa­pa_ pukka, Lon­don; moth­er­pukka.co.uk

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Front Page -

HOURS: ANNA 60+; MATT 40-60

When I was at my for­mer job as a copy­writer, the hours I was ex­pected to do meant that I kept miss­ing nurs­ery pickup. My hus­band and I shared it, but on my days, my daugh­ter would of­ten be there 15 min­utes af­ter ev­ery­one else. So I put in a flex­i­ble work­ing re­quest, ask­ing to leave so I could be there for her on time. It was turned down. The think­ing was that if it was given to me, then that would open the flood­gates to ev­ery­one else. So I left.

Iron­i­cally, now, I work more than I did be­fore. In part that’s be­cause of our big pas­sion project: cam­paign­ing for flex­i­ble work­ing. We’ve taken it to Down­ing Street and the Welsh Assem­bly. We call it a 30-year plan, for when our two daugh­ters, now five and one, end up in the work­force. How can I say to them “Work hard at school, go to univer­sity and get a great job”, only for an em­ployer to shut the door in their faces if they have a child? I don’t feel I can build my girls up to have the same fall I did.

Matt: I re­alised the ben­e­fit of flex­i­ble work­ing when we were liv­ing in Am­s­ter­dam when our old­est daugh­ter, May, was born. I typ­i­cally worked a four-day week, 7am5.45pm, with top-ups at the week­end, and the fifth day I could look af­ter my daugh­ter. That kind of ar­range­ment is quite com­mon in the Nether­lands.

Back in the UK it’s rare – es­pe­cially for dads. Anna and I have been cam­paign­ing to raise aware­ness about flex­i­ble work­ing among em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees. We typ­i­cally reach more women, par­tic­u­larly moth­ers. A small pro­por­tion are dads. Once dads do try flex­i­ble work­ing, they’re hugely en­thu­si­as­tic. But it’s still pretty rare.

Peo­ple can be sneered at by col­leagues if they are slop­ing away early to do a nurs­ery pick-up. Peo­ple with­out car­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties can feel that it’s un­fair that par­ents and car­ers get pri­or­ity on flex­i­ble work­ing. But our point is that flex­i­ble work­ing should be for ev­ery­one – it’s just as vi­able if you want to go and do a yoga les­son or walk your dog as pick up your kid. It’s about tak­ing back con­trol over your life.

‘Flex­i­ble work­ing should be for all. It’s about tak­ing back con­trol of your life’

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