Back to School: The Rise of Term-Time Contracts
As firms grapple with skills shortages and the cost and availability of childcare present enormous hurdles for working parents, is term-time working the solution? Does the rise of the term-time contract facilitate a future of inclusion or is it a short-sighted fad with little staying power?
The ultimate balancing act
The search for a work-life balance has taken centre stage in today’s evolving workplace, especially for parents trying to align their job objectives with their duties at home. The term-time employment contract, a flexible agreement that enables parents to synchronise work schedules with school calendars, is a new, popular approach.
Beth Samson, People Director at Investors in People believes term-time contracts are a fantastic way of supporting flexibility and reducing stress for working parents.
“In a world where employers typically offer 25 days of annual leave in the working year and the summer holidays alone equal 30 days of childcare being required, it’s a losing game for working parents in the UK otherwise,” she says.
Benefits and drawbacks
Danielle Baron, a diversity and inclusion expert at DIVEINC outlines the pros and cons of term-time work contracts.
Flexible work-life balance
The paramount advantage of a term-time work contract is its ability to seamlessly integrate a parent’s work commitments with their child’s school activities. This synchronous approach facilitates school drop-offs, pickups, and involvement in academic and extracurricular events, promoting a healthier work-life balance.
Quality family time
Term-time work contracts empower parents to embrace quality family moments during school holidays and breaks. These precious opportunities for shared activities, bonding experiences, and relaxation can significantly enhance family relationships and create lasting memories.
Reduced childcare costs
Parents often grapple with the high cost of childcare during school holidays. Term-time work contracts can mitigate this financial burden by enabling parents to be present when their children are out of school, reducing or even eliminating the need for costly childcare services.
Enhanced job satisfaction
Employers who offer term-time work contracts signal a commitment to their employees’ well-being. This gesture enhances job satisfaction and nurtures a positive workplace culture, ultimately contributing to higher employee retention rates.
Stability for children
The predictability of a term-time work contract provides children with the stability they need for optimal academic and emotional growth. Consistent routines support their development and help them succeed both in school and life.
A key drawback of term-time work contracts is the potential for reduced income during school breaks. This could strain finances if not meticulously planned for, making it essential for parents to have a reliable financial strategy in place.
Limited career progression
Depending on the nature of the role and industry, term-time work contracts might restrict opportunities for career growth. Parents might miss out on critical projects, responsibilities, and promotions that arise outside of term time.
Inconsistent work patterns
The irregular work pattern characteristic of term-time work contracts can be challenging for individuals who thrive on structure. Predictable routines are vital for maintaining focus and productivity, making the lack of consistency a potential roadblock.
In some workplaces, term-time work arrangements could inadvertently lead to perceptions of reduced commitment or dedication. Addressing these concerns requires open communication with colleagues and management to dispel any misconceptions.
Networking and development constraints
Professionals who seek continuous networking and skill development might face challenges due to limited availability during certain events or training sessions that fall outside of term time.
Flex to fit
While juggling the demands of raising a family, many mums and dads will want a job that is accommodating enough for them to carry out parenting duties, especially when children are younger.
New research from Flex revealed the best temporary jobs for parents which they can easily fit around school drop-off and pick-up times. The top five most school-run-friendly jobs are surprising, including chef de partie, bartender, waiting staff, replenishment assistant, and warehouse operatives.
This flexibility is especially important for parents who want to do the school drop-off in the morning and pick their children up in the afternoon. The roles can be found in the hospitality, retail and industrial sectors and can all start at 9.30 am and finish at 3 pm.
Novo Constare, CEO and Co-Founder at Indeed Flex says: “Firms are now realising that if they want to attract and retain staff they need to offer employment options which can fit around their workers’ lifestyles. This means sectors that historically have not already offered flexible working options are starting to introduce them.”
Constare goes on to say that with staff shortages still persistent in many industries, it is important that employers continue to offer hours that can work for parents and grandparents who have caring responsibilities during term time and the school holidays.
“Temporary roles can be perfectly suited to the school run, allowing mums and dads to leave home in the morning with their kids and return home together in the afternoon,” she adds.
Jim Moore, employee relations expert at HR consultants Hamilton Nash, says that term-time-only contracts are already quite common, and prove popular in the education sector, avoiding a situation where parents – often mothers – are excluded from the workforce due to childcare issues over the holidays.
“They have seen a rise in popularity recently as awareness increases about flexible working, which allows employees to ask for a term-time working arrangement,” he adds.
Moore outlines some potential challenges when a parent works in a seasonal industry and the employer needs workers outside of term times.
“While an employer may find someone willing to work only term times, it’s harder to find another person willing to work only for the school holiday periods.”
To flex or not to flex?
Amazon has recently offered term-term-only contractors to parents and grandparents. Employees with children would be able to take six weeks of holiday in summer and two weeks at Easter and Christmas, while retaining full-time benefits.
Deciding whether to offer a term-time labour contract depends on carefully weighing its pros and cons for your business. Ensure that expectations match business needs.
The term-time work contract reveals how workplace arrangements are adapting, symbolising the growing understanding that success at work is intricately linked to personal happiness.