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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

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Family friendly policies are not just for mums

This opinion piece is over 9 years old

Shelagh Young explains why Scotland's third sector should start taking family friends working more seriously

Are you a third-sector employer desperately seeking to build a loyal, happy, motivated and productive workforce? Then it is time to really get to grips with family friendly working.

The hot news is that happy people work harder and that stress, which is often linked to perceived lack of work-life balance, is now the number one reason for sickness absence in the UK.

But don’t think this is just a women’s issue, according to research carried out by the charity Working Families, a partner in the Family Friendly Working Scotland (FFWS) programme which was launched earlier this year, more of the people who are most dissatisfied with work-life-fit are fathers. That’s why the FFWS programme is launching the Scottish Top Employer Awards which includes a special category recognising employers who take fatherhood seriously and support fathers at all stages in the workplace.

Shelagh Young

The need for family friendly working is not just a women’s issue and yet time and again it is implied that lower pay for women is inextricable linked to women’s need for flexibility

Shelagh Young

In the week of #equalpayday – the point in the year when the gender pay gap means the average woman starts working for free, when you compare their pay with the average man's, it is good to remind ourselves that, some day, 80% of employees will become a parent and 60% will become a carer. That’s employees not women. The need for family friendly working is not just a women’s issue and yet time and again it is implied that lower pay for women is inextricable linked to women’s need for flexibility.

What we are learning fast is that we all need flexibility at some points in our working lives – the big question is whether any of us are managing this major issue to the best of our ability. For far too long flexible working has meant lobbying for choice by the white-collared middle-classes while lower paid workers too often experience flexibility as another burden imposed by cost cutting employers. For example, the flexibility of zero hours contracts resulting in people being forever on standby for very limited low-paid work is not the kind of stress busting measure Family Friendly Working Scotland applauds.

Being great at what you do means getting the best out of your people and there is no better place to start than by leading the field in family friendly working. Whether you are a potential award winning leader in the field or a keen beginner looking for guidance, Family Friendly Working Scotland would like to hear from you.

We can guarantee you won’t be the first to start taking family friendly working more seriously and that, if recruiting and keeping good people matters to you, you definitely don’t want to be the last.

Shelagh Young is Family Friendly Working Scotland programme co-ordinator on a jobshare basis with Nikki Slowey. FFWS members are Fathers Network Scotland, Parents Across Scotland, Working Families and Scottish Government.