Both public and private sector employers are expecting staff numbers to increase in the...read more
Philip Madeley and his wife Jen have tried different permutations of working life since having children and have arrived at a situation that works well for them where they share the care of their two children.
Philip was working long hours for a US bank in Australia when the couple’s first son Dylan was born eight years ago. Jen had been running her own business when she got pregnant. There was no maternity pay available and not much paternity leave in Australia at the time. “It was quite a challenge for Jen. Her business was relatively new and starting to take off and she had to wind it down because she could not put in the time and effort,” says Philip. A former colleague of Jen’s offered her a part-time job, working mainly from home, when Dylan was around seven months old.
Philip was, at that point, the main earner and on a growth trajectory, but that meant lots of regional travel. “When we had Dylan we realised that was not sustainable and not fair,” says Philip. So he moved to a consulting firm as an internal adviser where any travel involved was for shorter periods and within Australia. That enabled Jen to take on a new role. She then became the primary earner.
Two years ago, after having their second son, Sam, now aged three, the family moved back to the UK, in part to be nearer their relatives. Philip was given an opportunity to set up an office for the Australia-based location technology company BlueCats. He chose to set it up from home. It made business sense, he says, because it saved the company money and it meant he could easily handle the late and early calls he needed to take as a result of the different time zones the company operates in and be more productive. It also meant he could be around for his children and do the school run, something he couldn’t do in Australia.
Philip is now the main earner and Jen works flexibly for Talk Talk in Manchester. Both travel for work from time to time. Philip tends to do day trips and overnight trips in the UK and Europe and has occasional longer trips to the US. Both share the school run and the housework. Philip says they have worked hard together to get the balance right. That means lots of communication, managing their different work commitments against each other’s expectations and dividing up housework and childcare tasks based on each person’s capacity. “It’s a juggle,” he says, “but I get to see the children more than I did in Australia where I was working from 8am to 6pm and I would almost always miss their dinner time.” Now he can flex around the children and he and Jen work later in the evening when they are in bed.
“I have tasted what it is like to have the best of both worlds,” he says. “I feel exceptionally fortunate and I wish more companies were open to this. I think we are both more productive too.”
He describes the way he and his wife work as a blend of work and family life and says they very much share parenting. “We both chose to have children and we both have a duty to raise them,” he says.
He hopes to take on more people at BlueCats soon and says it will be important to ensure that they get the support they need to work effectively. He says: “One size does not fit all. We need to ask what people need to be successful and how we can help them to achieve that. We need to give them the environment which allows them to perform to their potential.”