Tuesday 15 October 2019

How to negotiate pay for three-day week

Karen O'Reilly is the founder of Employmum, an agency that specialises in finding flexible work solutions for women and mothers returning to the workplace.
Karen O'Reilly is the founder of Employmum, an agency that specialises in finding flexible work solutions for women and mothers returning to the workplace.

Karen O'Reilly Founder of Employmum (employmum.ie)

Q: I have three young children and am finding it very difficult to hold down my full-time job. I am considering moving to a three-day week and my boss appears to be open to this. How exactly should I negotiate pay for a three-day week? Should I seek to be paid on a pro-rata basis - where I get three-fifths of my pay to reflect the three-day week? And is it wise to let my pay sink so low under a three-day week?

Also, how can I be sure my pension doesn't take too much of a hit? I currently pay 5pc of my salary into a defined contribution and my boss matches that contribution.

Obviously, if my pay falls under the three-day week, so too will the value of my contribution - and my employer's contribution. Would it be worth seeing if my employer would continue to base his pension contribution on my current salary - rather than on the salary under a three-day week? Karen, Dublin 7

A: I am delighted to hear that your boss is open to this - Employmum is seeing a genuine shift in employers' attitudes to flexible work - with many employers open to the idea.

As we reach nearly full employment, savvy employers are realising that to obtain and retain the best people, they need to offer flexibility which is the number one request from employees - based on our own surveys.

Usually when someone works in a part-time capacity, a pro-rata salary would be sought - based on the full-time equivalent.

In your case, this would be three-fifths of your full-time salary.

In your meeting with your boss to negotiate these new flexible work arrangements, I would approach your meeting with a definite strategy and propose the arrangements that would suit you best.

By adopting a problem-solving viewpoint with your employer and outlining the advantages of employing you part-time (rather than losing a valuable and experienced team player), the results will most likely be more favourable.

More companies are willing to go that extra mile to retain their employees, particularly good female employees, so I would negotiate maintaining your pension contributions as they are in exchange for you also being flexible on your side.

We find that flexibility works both ways when offered by an employer.

If you feel that talking to a coach would be beneficial to you before you approach your employer, Employmum has a panel of hand-picked coaches around Ireland who can help you with your preparation for negotiating with your employer.

You could also get advice from your trade union - if you are a member of a trade union.

Demotion after maternity

Q: I have returned to work after taking six months' maternity leave. I had a managerial position before I left, but my boss has just informed me that he offered my job to another employee while I was on maternity leave - and that as that employee is doing so well, he wishes to keep him in that job. As a result of this, my position now will be that of assistant manager. My boss has also informed me that my pay will be cut by 10pc to reflect my more junior position. I am at a loss at what to do here. Can my boss demote me like this? Is he entitled to cut my pay? What are my rights here and how can I get my boss to honour them? Sorcha, Co Dublin

A: You are entitled to return to work after maternity leave to the exact same job with the same contract of employment. This is all laid out under Section 26 of the Maternity Protection Act 1994. Your employer is legally obliged to keep your terms exactly the same and you should not be discriminated against in any way because you have taken maternity leave. I would outline your rights and direct your boss to these legal requirements so he or she knows that he is breaking the law if he demotes you or offers you less pay.

Should your boss not make amends after you point this out to him, you could make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), the State body charged with handling complaints about discrimination in the workplace.

The WRC can intervene on your behalf and try to reach a solution between you and your employer - or it may even decide to appoint an inspector to investigate your complaint.

Childcare for shift worker

Q: I will be returning to work next month after taking maternity leave for my first child. My job entails shift work - typically 6am to 2pm; 2pm to 10pm, or 10pm to 6am. There is often very little notice of the shifts that I would be required to work in a particular week - there have often been cases in the past where I have only got a day or two's notice of a particular shift required of me. I have no idea how I am going to arrange childcare around this type of shiftwork.

My - and my partner's - parents are too elderly to be in a position to mind our child. The longest-opening creche I can find is 7am to 7pm - but even this wouldn't cover certain shift hours. Furthermore, the creche would require me to leave my child in for set hours each day, which is unlikely to work for me. My partner also works shifts so is in a similar position.

Do you have any advice on how I would set up a childcare arrangement which could work in conjunction with our shift-work jobs? Or does such an arrangement even exist? Maeve, Dublin 24

A: We speak to a lot of parents about the issue of managing their childcare around the demands of their work.

I would advise you speak to your employer and your partner's employer to see if you can come up with a shift sequence that would suit you both and fit in with your childcare responsibilities.

There is a talent shortage out there at the moment and if you are skilled in the work you are currently doing, your employer will be reluctant to lose you as it will have the headache of retraining and recruiting another person. Finding a solution that works for both you and your employer would be the ideal scenario for all involved.

When approaching your employer, I would recommend that you request a meeting with your employer and approach him or her with a solution that would suit your needs.

If your employer does not want to change its shift schedule, perhaps you could consider taking on an au pair?

The average cost of an au pair is approximately €160 a week and the au pair would be available to fill in the gaps in your shift schedule with your partner.

It could be an ideal solution for you in the current situation you are in. I would highly recommend that you go with a reputable au pair agency as the rules have changed recently when it comes to the employment rights of au pairs in Ireland so it is best to be compliant in every way.

Karen O'Reilly is the founder of Employmum, an agency that specialises in finding flexible work solutions for women and mothers returning to the workplace.

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