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I am a full-time mum and carer for my youngest son who is on disability benefit. With my children now in full-time education, I want to go back to work, but can only do school hours. I am worried I will not be able to get a job in the recession.
Job search isn’t easy for anyone and your circumstances naturally reduce the employment options open to you. In spite of these difficulties, though, I feel you’ve better chances of finding a decent job than perhaps you do.
I think you need to find out what your legal position is – partly to give you confidence in approaching / negotiating with prospective employers (knowledge is power!) and partly because it may influence your job search strategy.
I’m fairly sure you’re entitled to the protection of sex discrimination and disability discrimination legislation as regards your search for employment. As a woman you’re more likely to be the main childcare provider than a male applicant is so you shouldn’t be treated less favourably than he would be; there’s also case law about preventing unfair treatment of the parents of disabled children. You’d need to check these points with a Citizens Advice Bureau advisor or the legal expert on this site.
Most large employers will have an up-to-date knowledge of employment law and their recruitment policies will be designed to conform to it. They also care about their public reputation as “equal opportunity” employers. As a result, many – especially the public sector employers – already have significant numbers of employees working “family friendly” term-time hours, “job-sharing”, etc. Even where employers don’t advertise vacancies as “job shares”, it’ll be worth your while asking them to consider this option (even perhaps sorting out in advance prospective “job share” partners). Never forget that it can be in the employer’s interests to have someone working part-time – there are jobs (eg school secretary posts) where most or all the work happens during term-time.
Many small and medium-size employers only have a hazy idea of employment law so you can’t rely on them having the same motivation to avoid discriminatory practices as the larger employers do. They may only be able to afford to hire part-time staff, however. They’re keenly motivated to keep recruitment costs to the minimum so
they may not be able to attract many good applicants, even during a recession; if you’re a strong candidate, they may need you so much they’ll be prepared to meet you halfway.
In your shoes, I’d draw up lists of all the jobs where most of the work is done during term-time and of all the local employers who already offer part-time or “family friendly” hours. I’d consider “temping” assignments. I’d concentrate my job search efforts on employers where my areas of special knowledge (eg how to deal with kids, disability, social care issues etc) give me competitive advantages over other candidates.