Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Making ends meet with a bit more confidence

Being a working mum is not without significant problems. And that's before you get to the guilt of leaving your children each day to encourage your brain to click into 'work' mode.

In 2012 women represented more than half the UK workforce, despite this most days you hear reports about glass ceilings, the lack of female representation in boardrooms, lower salaries, and that's before you think about pensions, the economic climate, and all the other strains on family life.

Mumsnet has been working with leading financial protection insurer Unum for over a year focusing on protecting family finances.

According to a new report commissioned by Unum, today’s employees are more likely to fall into financial difficulty than they were 30 years ago. The report suggests that this is partly owing to the fact that employee benefits – designed to provide financial protection – have failed to keep pace with the changing UK workforce which is now more feminised, older and includes more disabled and long-term ill.

After I quickly became a mum of three, and the sole earner within our family, my focus has quickly turned to maintaining my job, fearing the implications of increasing bills and a static salary.
Every time efficiencies and cost savings are mentioned at work, I quickly do a stocktake to ensure my team are able to prove their worth.
That's before those uncontrolled elements such as illness are factored in.
In spite of a massive restructuring, one thing I am most grateful to my employer is the introduction of 'My Flex' which accompanies the existing 'Employee Assistance Programme'.
I have probably already mentioned I work in a male dominated industry, and when I first started with my employer women in my role were few and far between, and the general feel was that people represented an older demographic.
In reality the nearest colleague to my age group in the same role was ten years older. And her nearest colleague had ten years on her.

Things have changed significantly in this time, a great achievement for an organisation entwined with construction and the public sector.
'My Flex' did come late in the day, it was rolled out in 2012, but when it did it was well researched, and fit for purpose, it comes with an ability to update annually (or if you have life changes you can update based on this), as well as continual improvements by the organisation to ensure the offer is 'fit for purpose'.
One of the good things about my organisation, is the recognition of our changing lives. I manage a team of six: living in Exeter, Bristol, Birmingham, Leicester, Warrington and Runcorn. And we cover England. And they have to put up with me, living in Wales.
We're all 'travelling employees'. We have more than one place of work. And we're expected to manage our own office- on the move. To do this we're armed with Blackberries, Laptops, and a fantastic support team in Norfolk and London.

But with all this comes the inevitable flexibility, when we're either on the road or in meetings, we usually need things at our fingertips when we want them.
And that's where our intranet comes as the first port of call. Whilst our Human Resources team are always at the end of the phone (in working hours), our intranet means we have all the information we need.
So, when considering how to make best use of our benefits package, it can all be accessed online, with HR available for further advice and guidance.

So each year you can revisit the package you have chosen, and it even allows me to cover my husband as a stay-at-home dad.
Some of the benefits which you can include are:
I do feel a lot more secure with the flexible benefits package underpinning my income.
I am fortunate enough to work for an organisation with a final salary pension scheme- whether I understand this or not, and it has changed over the years, my dad was really impressed when I told him, so it must be good.
But most days, getting to the end of the month is all we are working toward, so pensions are a long way off.
Knowing that we have much support as we can access is a happy medium.

I know I am fortunate, to work for an employer who has to act responsibly.
And they are a large employer, of 1000+.

But knowing what you can access, and how you can offer a tiny bit more security to your family, it's definitely worth chatting things over with your HR team.

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.


  1. Certainly true that companies need to move with the times and reflect the current workforce. I think a lot of families have suffered in this recession from static income. This can catch you unawares. You get a below inflation payrise or none at all, but at the same time all your bills go up. It stands to reason that some will get caught out with this.
    Good to hear about someone with a flexible employer with a good benefits scheme. There seem to be less good employers around too nowadays.

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