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September 'new start' helping you gain a better work life balance

By Nikki Slowey, Co-Director at Family Friendly Working Scotland

September has a universal ‘new start’ feel about it. A new term is already underway for millions of school pupils. But this time of year can inspire new beginnings for parents too when it comes to making changes at work, home or the way we balance the two.

For many parents, the start of a new school year marks a significant change in family routines. Perhaps your child has started school for the first time, or has reached an age or year group where you feel comfortable returning to work or increasing your work.

Or perhaps you’ve been running yourself into the ground trying to juggle work and home life – even more so in school holidays - and you want to cut back, or make your work flex more healthily around your home and family life.

If you’re thinking about your work life balance and want to ensure - or increase - your flexibility, our team at Family Friendly Working Scotland has put together the following facts and top tips to help you find the right balance.

The truth about flexible working:

Flexible working is no longer a ‘favour’ solely for women returning from maternity leave. Millions of Scottish men and women of all ages and backgrounds already work flexibly for a variety of reasons. The latest figures show more than half (55%) of Scottish workers now work flexibly. Of the 43 per cent who don’t currently work flexibly, more than half (56%) would like to (1).

Flexible working comes in all shapes and sizes. It includes part-time hours. But it can also be job-shares, compressed hours, flexitime – amending start and finish times, remote and home working, term-time-only working and annualised hours to name only the most common. It’s about finding a way of working that enables you to be your best at work and at home.

Businesses benefit too because flexibility is proven to increase motivation, productivity and commitment. A UK Government task force aims to increase flexible working opportunities and their uptake for this very reason, and the group includes the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). Employers who still think flexible working is a burden are just plain wrong.

Six steps to flexibility:

Work out what you need

Flexible working comes in so many forms including some you may not have heard of, such as term-time-only working where employees don’t work in school holidays. We found more than one in ten (12%) Scottish adults said this kind of flexibility would be valuable – so you are not alone if you think this could work for you (2). Similarly, working ‘annualised hours’ means you are contracted for a certain number of hours a year but you and your manager agree when you will carry them out. Be clear in your own mind about what you need to be effective and enjoy our time at work and at home. Know what is a deal-breaker.

Highlight the business benefits

Flexible working has to work for your employer too, so make sure you can show how changing your working pattern will also help your organisation. Perhaps changing your hours will give your employer better coverage across the day or week. A job share brings two perspectives instead of one. Working from home saves travel time and could open up more ‘work’ time. While annualised or term-time hours could allow your employer to concentrate resources when they are most needed.

Your legal rights

Employers have a legal duty to consider a flexible working request from anyone in post for at least 26 weeks. This means there’s no legal duty to consider flexible working requests during recruitment, though progressive organisations that understand the business benefits of flexible working are increasingly agreeing flexible arrangements at the point of hire.

Start a conversation

It can feel awkward asking for changes, especially if your colleagues all seem to work ‘standard’ full-time hours. But if you don’t ask, it’s unlikely you’ll get what you need. You don’t need to be aggressive laying down demands and threatening to leave if they’re not met. Think of it as simply starting a conversation and exploring the options.

Flexible job hunting

If you’re not having any luck with your current employer, or you are returning to work after a career break, keep any eye out for our ‘happy to talk flexible working’ logo and strapline on job adverts. Try job boards and agencies that specialise in flexible working - has a good list in its support centre section. Use mainstream job boards too and search for flexible or part-time roles.

Do your own research

Don’t rely on flexibility being touted in an advert. Unfortunately, only one in eight quality jobs in Scotland is advertised as flexible. But more than half of Scots say they currently work flexibly, proving there could be much more scope for a flexible role. Use websites such as Glassdoor to get a better idea of a company’s culture. Check out our Top Employers award winners and the Working Families Benchmark list of companies that encourage flexible working for inspiration too.


  1. Figures are from YouGov. Total sample size was 1,011 adults of which 519 were workers. Fieldwork was undertaken online between September 4 and 7, 2018. The figures are weighted and representative of all Scottish adults aged 18 and over.

2. Figure from YouGov. Total sample size was 1,021 adults of which 493 were workers. Fieldwork was undertaken online between September 5 and 7, 2017. The figures are weighted and representative of all Scottish adults aged 18 and over.

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