APPRENTICE star and West Ham United vice-chair Karren Brady answers your careers questions and meets an inspirational CEO.
Here she gives a reader advice on how to negotiate a more flexible contract with management.
Q) I’m a mental health support worker and have been accepted to do my mental health nurse training in September, which I’m thrilled about.
However, to pay the bills while I train, I need to carry on working, but I’m finding it difficult to get my manager to agree a reduced-hours, more flexible contract.
They say that because I don’t have children to care for, they can’t help me as it doesn’t suit the needs of the service, because colleagues who need childcare have hugely utilised this option already. What should I do?
Julie, via email
A) Not every request for flexible working can be granted, but your employer should consider yours fairly and reasonably, and if it is refused they should be able to give you a clear business case as to why.
It sounds like your request has not been fairly considered and you are being discriminated against for not having caring responsibilities.
Speak to your employer first to try to resolve things informally, keeping communications friendly and solution-focused.
Check the company’s flexible working policy (it’s a legal requirement to have one) to ensure you’ve followed the steps for a formal request for flexible working, and ask for a written response.
You could also ask what the next steps would be should you wish to appeal the decision.
If they say it would negatively impact the business to have more employees on reduced/flexible hours, that is a considered response.
However, as they’ve explicitly said because you don’t have children you are not eligible for reduced or flexible hours, that’s not fair or reasonable.
Before you go down a grievance route, contact ACAS for expert help and advice (Acas.org.uk).
A day in the life of…
Louise Dean, 51, is a Booker-Prize-listed author of four novels and the founder of online creative writing school The Novelry. She lives in Sissinghurst, Kent, with her two grown-up children and dog Blue.
I wake up at…
6am. I grab a coffee and head to my desk. Three-quarters of our writers are working women, usually with kids, and most of them get up to write for an hour before their children wake and work begins, so I time my start with theirs.
A normal day involves…
My mantra is: “Do what’s important, not what’s urgent”, and because my brain works best in the morning, I first do things that need deep concentration, such as reading or editing a story.
Towards the end of the day, I do admin, reply to emails and tweak the website. One job I don’t manage is our social media, blog and news content. If someone can do a job better than I can, delegation is key!
Since launching The Novelry in 2017, I’ve built a team of 15 authors and tutors across all fiction genres and editors from publishers like Penguin Random House and Pan Macmillan.
We work remotely and communicate via Slack and Zoom, but get together at a nice hotel every three months for a face-to-face catch-up.
Blue is my chief wellness officer and insists on three walks a day, which keeps me healthy.
When I had my kids 20-plus years ago, I had to constantly choose between work and them, which made me deeply unhappy. I’ve created a company where women set their own working hours.
It’s unrealistic, especially post-pandemic, not to expect people to have lives out of work.
The best part of my job is…
Telling a writer they’ve secured representation with a literary agent. It is brilliant to hear their happy shrieks. One lady in her 60s had said she was too old to get published, but we got her an agent and a two-book deal
And the worst…
The accounts and chores of running a business, and trying to fathom spreadsheets.
I wind down by…
Going to the village pub for a drink with a neighbour, or taking an evening walk with Blue in the countryside.
Be a boss
Bossing It is Fabulous’ series about ordinary women who have launched incredible businesses.
It aims to inspire other women and show that if these ladies can do it, so can you!
Read more at Thesun.co.uk/topic/bossing-it.
Compiled by: Claire Frost & Gemma Calvert
Karren cannot answer emails personally. Content is intended as general guidance only and does not constitute legal advice.