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Working Flexibly when you have Caring or Other Significant Responsibilities

We recognise that we are working in extraordinary circumstances and that colleagues are doing all they can to contribute during this period. Things are changing quickly every day, and most of us have seen our typical routines turned upside down.    

The recent school closures in particular will affect many of our staff and students. We recognise that many of you will not be able to make alternative childcare or other caring arrangements over the coming weeks and months, and you may not be able to commit to full working hours during this unprecedented period.  

We know that you will do your best to manage your work and personal commitments and we thank you for all your efforts during this time. You do not need to request carer’s leave, annual leave or other types of leave to manage these commitments.  

All University employed members of staff will continue to be paid as usual during this unprecedented period, whether they are working remotely, absent due to ill-health, self-isolating, caring for dependants, unable to work from home due to the nature of their role, or providing an essential service on campus. Staff who are struggling to work at all should discuss this with their line manager. Please be assured that you will continue to be paid as usual.

We will do everything we can to accommodate your situation. Please keep in touch with your line manager to discuss your working arrangements and how we can best support you. We expect all managers to be supportive of their staff in following this guidance. If you have any questions, you can speak to your HR Adviser.

Get creative with your working pattern 

Current circumstances mean that we all need to make some changes to the way we work. Please speak to your line manager to manage and prioritise your workload according to your circumstances and new way of working. We appreciate that sometimes this will mean you are unlikely to deliver what you would usually be able to. 

It may be helpful to consider some of the following ways of working: 

  • If you have another adult home with you, you could consider a joint caring schedule, with one adult working and the other taking on the caring responsibilities, e.g. one person working during the day, and one working in the evening; 
  • you may want to work a compressed week by working longer hours per day allowing you to take some days off during the week (this may be useful if you are in a position where you can share your caring responsibilities); 
  • you may want to work over the weekend (when there may be more support at home) and take time off for your caring responsibilities during the week; 
  • you may be able to agree with your line manager that you temporarily reduce your working hours to help better balance between caring responsibilities and work.   

Things to consider: 

  •  Whatever your new working pattern, there will inevitably be an adjustment period as you get used to your new way of working. 
  • You’ll also need to take meetings and deadlines into consideration when discussing your workload with your line manager.  

Communicate with your colleagues 

Even with the best planning, your caring responsibilities may impact on your work. If possible, keep your team updated on any changes to your working pattern. You are making the best of an unprecedented situation, and you will probably have colleagues who are going through it with you. 

Clearly communicating your needs may help to make your own life less stressful during this time, and also open the door for your colleagues to have this conversation. Having this kind of conversation will help everyone — you, your colleagues and your line manager.  

Top tips: 

  1. If you have a conference call and know there might be some unavoidable noises in the background, such as children playing or pets, make people aware of this at the beginning of the conversation. You can also mute your microphone while you are not talking, to minimise background noise.  
  2. If there are changes to your working patterns, let your colleagues know.  
    For example, you can say, “I have two children at home. I’m sometimes going to be working different hours to manage my workload.  And you’ll probably see and hear my children during meetings.” 
  3. Where possible, put your revised working hours in your email signature and your voicemail to remind everyone of when you will be working.  

Take some time away from work 

Where possible make sure each adult in the house has downtime to themselves. We understand that working while managing children or caring for others can impact on your own wellbeing and energy levels so making time for yourself is really important 

Top tips: 

  1. You might make space to read a book, focus on a hobby, or exercise. In a house with multiple adults you can share the responsibilities. Try to discuss when and how you’ll each take your downtime in advance.  
  2. Please remember that you can also book annual leave either to get some more dedicated time with your children or dependents or to have some more downtime for yourself. While we may not be able to take our usual holidays or get involved in the activities we might usually like to do during our annual leave, taking a break from the workplace is still important for us all. 
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