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How can flexible work change your life?

A couple of years ago before my wife Sarah went back to work after maternity leave, we started to look at what our options for childcare were. We had young children and where we live in Edinburgh there is a lack of childcare services. We were both going to be working full time so the most realistic option for us was to try an Au Pair.

In the Spring of 2016 we put an advert on relevant websites and were overcome with applications from highly qualified individuals mainly from Europe. After a few interviews via Skype we asked Elvira, a amazing individual from Spain, to be our first Au Pair. A couple of months later she joined our family and stayed with us for 12 months.

After what seemed like no time at all it was nearly time for Elvira to move on and in the Spring we started looking for a replacement. Much to our surprise this time round we couldn’t find anyone who fitted what we were looking for. This was a bit perplexing but we think it was definitely connected to the fall out of Brexit.

We eventually found a lovely Au Pair from America just a few weeks before we both started working full time again. We waved goodbye to the amazing Elvira who went back to Spain and waited with eager anticipation for our new Au Pair to arrive only 5 days later. The day of arrival came and we were in the process of preparing for the new member of the family to arrive when we were informed that arrangements had changed due to personal circumstances – which was, to say the least, a blow to our morale!

Besides the obvious issues of disappointment and managing uncertainty, we had to put childcare in place quickly to bridge us through to a more permanent solution. Luckily for us my employer ILF Scotland is an exemplar organisation for flexible working among many other fantastic organisational traits. Over the weeks and months that followed I worked flexibly allowing us to carry on pretty much as normal whilst gradually putting in permanent childcare arrangements.

We are now 5 months on and are just about to welcome our new Au Pair. This has allowed me to reflect on this difficult period and what would have happened if my employer did not champion flexible working. Both Sarah and I would have had to take all of our holiday time for the year to cover this period, which would have left us with no holidays for another 8 months. Secondly, it would have cost us a lot of money, assuming childcare would even be available! It also had potential to damage our relationship with our employers whilst impacting on our health due to increased levels of stress.

Flexible working allows our family to spend more quality time together and have continuity of childcare during an uncertain period. Moving forward we hope that the unintended consequences of Brexit do not result in us or anyone else experiencing this again however we are much more relaxed knowing that if it were to happen, we at least would have a fall back plan!

Harvey Tilley- Independent Living Fund Scotland

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