After her kids were grown, Anita took on the job of looking after her elderly Mum. A bit of zero hours working kept the family finances going. Anita is resourceful and she managed to learn all about the new computer system fairly quickly. She very quickly became the person her colleagues asked when they had any problems with the system. Her manager seemed to be a real short term planner. He often rang round at 11pm telling Anita to be at work for the 5am shift. Anita often needed hours to organise cover for elderly Mum – but she managed. She rarely refused a shift. She knew of other workers who had said ‘no’ once too often and were never called again. So she kept her mobile on all the time just in case the boss called – even if it was way after bedtime.
She loved babysitting her grandchildren. Her daughter was a mature student at college and Anita did what she could to help out with after school runs and childcare. It was difficult though because she couldn’t plan. Sometimes she had to let her daughter down. She’d be half way to her daughter’s house when the boss would call. “Come in on this evening’s shift”. Once or twice she said she couldn’t, but was firmly told – “If you want this job you’ll turn the car round and come in now”. Her daughter got into trouble at college for erratic attendance. Somehow they all muddled through.
Anita had trouble getting to pre-book holiday. Sometimes she tried, but getting paid was a nightmare and no-one seemed to be able to work out how she should be paid. She kept her head down and battled on.
One day she pre-booked a few days leave. She was hoping her boss wouldn’t muck her around. As luck would have it, she was half way down the high street when her boss called her mobile. “I’m on leave” she said, “I’ve booked the day off”. Her boss was adamant – “Come in now or I won’t be booking you any more shifts”. Anita explained why she couldn’t come in and refused.
Her boss was as good as his word. No more shifts for her. A few days later she got her P45 from payroll.
How does Anita’s story affect your talent management? Well it wasn’t a big deal to get another zero-hours worker to replace her. You’d be right about that. But there’s more to this story than that.
Anita’s time off was to arrange and attend her mother’s funeral. The call she took was when she was half way up the high street on the way to do the final shopping before going home to follow the hearse to the cemetery. When the P45 arrived she took a few months to look after her grandchildren and make sure her daughter Tanya graduated college. Then she took a few agency jobs. After that she got a zero hours contract working in an organisation whose old computer system was very like the one her old boss had replaced. They were replacing it too. HR spent a lot of time and money on trainers to show the team how the new system worked but the team got in the habit of going to Anita and asking her for help. Some things never change. Her new boss saw something in Anita and when a vacancy for a team leader came up encouraged her to apply. She got the job. She is no longer a zero-hours worker but has a part time contract with fairly regular extra hours. A year down the road she is happy as a team leader and she has recruited many of her old colleagues to the new company. Everyone is happy – she knows they know how the systems work and they are happy to join. She has recruited 12 so far and three of them are team leaders too. The new employer is happy to have an expanding team who are happy and know the work. Anita has been asked to go on training courses and is thinking about being promoted to section head. She is taking it slowly and steadily – she and Tanya have a wedding to plan.
We heard Annabel Kaye speak at London HR Vision in 2016 and invited her to do a series of guest blogs for us. She is an experienced employment law and HR specialists whose speciality is “Creating Flexibility that doesn’t hurt”.
Annabel Kaye is an employment law and HR specialist who co-founded Irenicon in 1980. Her fascination is the space where relationships and law combine. She works with teams who want to create an engaging and flexible work space that takes on board the real legal situation but it not confined by a compliance mind set. Through these stories she is inviting you to look deeper and dig deeper into the parts of your organisation you don’t always see. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter (AnnabelKaye). Irenicon can be found at http://www.irenicon.co.uk/.
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