NEW parents Jack and Gabby Darracott faced a tough dilemma just like millions of other mums and dads – how to juggle jobs and childcare.
As son Theo approached his first birthday, the pair started looking for nurseries, but found that their chosen one only had space for him four days a week.
The only nursery that could offer five days was more expensive and further away.
So, 32-year-old Jack, an app developer from Leeds, decided to ask his boss if he could work a four-day week.
“I was nervous to ask. It was in my contract that I can ask for flexible working, but there was no guarantee they would say yes,” he told The Sun.
But not only did his boss give the request a thumbs up, he was told he would still get paid for the full five.
Jack said: ”I put my case for a shorter week forward but worried how I’d budget for a 20% pay cut.
“But when I sat down with my boss Gareth [Hoyle, the boss of search engine marketing agency Marketing Signals], he said he was thinking of doing a four-day week company-wide. I couldn’t believe it.”
Since April, Jack has worked Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, taking Thursday off to look after his son and get through the mountains of washing that come with having a young child.
“It’s been a game-changer,” he said.
“I’ve been doing it for three months now with no change to benefits or drop in pay.
“It’s great – I can’t remember what it’s like to work five days a week and I’d never go back to it.”
Not only does he get to spend more time with Theo – at £60 per day for nursery, the couple have saved at least £3,000 a year in childcare costs.
Jack said: “The other nursery we would have had to use for five days was more expensive, so it’s potentially £5,000 or £6,000 a year if you factor that in.
“It’s massive – it’s crazy how much childcare costs.”
Sky-high childcare costs are forcing parents to re-think their careers, reduce hours, or even leave the workforce altogether because they cannot afford rising bills.
Some parents even report that their nursery fees cost more than their monthly mortgage payments.
A part-time, 25-hour nursery place for under twos costs £7,160 a year, on average, according to a 2021 Coram Family and Childcare survey.
The government has promised to tackle the issue and this week announced plans to increase the number of kids nursery staff can look after from four to five.
Childminders will also be able to look after children in more locations, like community halls, and the government says the plans, which still have to be approved, could save parents as much as £480 a year.
‘I’d never go back to five days’
Without the change to hours, Jack says he would have had to find a new job that paid more to cover the higher nursery costs.
Or in the worst case, he would have had to quit to do full-time childcare and try and pick up freelance work around looking after his son.
“It was a huge relief,” he said. “Since moving to the four-day working week, I’ve been able to spend more quality time with my son, and experience all of the first milestones that I would have missed out on had I been working a full week.”
“I actually feel more present in the hours that I do work and the working week feels less of a grind.
“Since it started I feel well-rested, less stressed and overall a much happier person. You couldn’t pay me enough to go back to five days.”
Working remotely in the pandemic helped the case for more flexible work, he believes.
The pandemic when millions were forced to work from home during lockdowns has spurred a rethink of working hours at many companies.
Around 70 firms with more than 3,000 staff have signed up to take part in a six-month pilot which will give workers an extra day off each week.
Just like Jack, they will work four days a week but get paid the same salary as a five-day working week.
Jack’s boss Gareth, said: “It’s important that my staff feel valued and understand life outside of work is just as important.”
“This new model of work, which focuses on quality not quantity, will revolutionise the future of working and I’m excited to be a part of it.
“A good work/life balance is the key to a happy and healthy workforce which leads to loyalty, ultimately helping our business grow.”
Can I ask my boss for a four-day week?
All employees have a right to request flexible working as long as you’ve been with your company for at least 26 weeks.
This is known as making a statutory application.
There are different types of flexible working requests you can make, such as switching to part time hours or compressing your working hours into fewer days.
Your boss has to consider the request, but they don’t have to agree and you might have to take a pay cut for working fewer hours.
To make a request, you should write to your employer who will then consider your proposal and make a decision, usually within three months.
If they agree, your contract will be updated to reflect the changes.
If they disagree, they have to give you a reason and you could complain to an employment tribunal if you feel it’s unfair.
The government has previously pledged to scrap the 26 week wait to make a flexible working request and allow workers to make it from their first day of employment.
However no date has been given for the introduction of the new rule.
For anyone wanting to do similar, Jack shared some tips.
He said: “Think about how your role works and how you can make it work. Think about the potential blockers and work a way round them.
“A track record of having a bit of trust and being able to work on your own without having your hand held.”