Has the time for job shares finally come?

Job shares are in the news. We need to promote them more to increase take-up.

Two puzzle pieces


I’ve been speaking to people about job shares this week. They came up in the discussions around the growing number of carers dropping out and in the recent stories about flexible working in teaching.

I’ve spoken to a fair few successful job share partners in my time and when they work they work really well. It is like having a super-worker – with the knowledge, experience and talents of two people for more or less the price of one.

I’ve also done a couple of job shares myself. The first was back in the mists of time before I had children. I had reduced my hours to go back to university and do a master’s because I wanted to focus in depth on something that had come up at work. At the time job shares were fairly rare and job share best practice had not been in any way defined. The job share didn’t work particularly well – mainly because we didn’t have a crossover day or time. Also I had been doing the job for four years beforehand so knew it inside out, making me the default person for a lot of things. I admit too that it was hard to let go.

The next time I did a job share was when I was a lot older and had at least three kids. I shared a temporary post with another woman who was looking for part-time work because she also had children. She had been a high-flying producer on a tv programme and I had come from an education newspaper. The role involved education policy which put me at an advantage for education contacts and knowledge. She had a harder job getting up to date with policy developments, but was able to supply good contacts within tv. We had a crossover email system and spoke on the phone. It worked better, but when we both went for the permanent role the manager said he wanted a full-time person. He couldn’t get his head around communicating with two different people and feared information would fall through the gaps.

I’ve also had a journalism colleague suggest a job share, but at the time I needed a full-time salary and our line manager was not great, particularly when it came to women. We both ended up voting with our feet. It’s a shame because she is quite something, very knowledgeable about her field, calm, patient and engaged. I would have learned a lot. She should have been an editor, but she had adopted two children and needed to work part time.

Now daughter two’s school has a job share in the head role and I work closely with a job share. Our marketing managers operate on a job share basis and are fantastic, complementing each other’s skills and personalities perfectly. Despite all these benefits and the growing body of best practice data, however, the stats in our annual survey never seem to shift much when it comes to job shares. There is still a certain reticence about them, despite the fact that they offer a good solution to the present focus on the gender pay gap and flexible career progression.

Maybe we need to shout more about the great examples that are out there and make the case louder. With ageing population trends, the increase of working people with caring responsibilities, the gender pay gap and a whole series of other issues, job shares would seem to be an idea whose time has come.

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