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