We’re working with McDonald’s to try and get the flexible working message out to more people. Here, we explain why…
Why are you talking about flexible working at all?
In December 2015, Anna left journalism to take a copywriting job for a big beauty brand. It was a wrench, and the idea of joining the corporate world was a bit daunting, but we had a mortgage, were thinking about a second kid, and it seemed best for the family.
In January 2016, that brand announced they were moving her office from somewhere 45 minutes away to somewhere 90 minutes away. It meant she would see Mae asleep and at weekends and I would have to cut back my hours. She asked for 15 minutes flex on her start and leave times. They said no, because ‘they’d have to do it for everybody’. So she quit, and Mother Pukka was born. We started Mother Pukka to try and make earning a living and raising children a bit more compatible for us. #flexappeal is our effort to make it more compatible for everybody else too.
Flexible working helps people improve work-life balance, be healthier and happier in their relationships, and better able to provide for themselves and their families.
But it’s good for employers too – it boosts productivity, helps attract and retain talent and can save on site costs – and society in general, by tackling the gender pay gap, addressing the issue of 54,000 new mothers being forced out of work each year, and keeping more taxes and skills in the economy.
It’s not solely an issue for mothers: it can benefit anyone who works or wants to work. But it does disproportionately affect women. And, ultimately, schmaltzy as this may sound, we don’t want our daughters to have to decide between earning money and raising kids.
Why are you working with McDonald’s?
When we started #flexappeal, we had two very simple goals – make people aware of the right to request flex, and encourage employers to trial it. And that was it – parp the trumpet and hope someone listens.
The first #flexappeal flash mob was in early 2016 and we’ve been running it, mostly alone, ever since. We’ve had some help – all those thousands who’ve attended flash mobs across the country, experts offering free advice on workitout.org.uk and the Let’s Talk About Flex Facebook page.
We’ve had a few hundred encouraging messages from people who were emboldened to make (mostly successful) flex requests, partly in response to #flexappeal. We’ve given talks at a few companies, trying to excite them about the business benefits of flex.
But now we feel a responsibility to take it further. We get lots of questions from people asking how they can get flex, and we can’t always give an answer. We can talk in general terms, but people need specific answers. We recently trialled an event called Soft Play, Hard Talk, which brought together 50 parents in a soft play area so the mums and dads could quiz three volunteer advisers (one recruiter who specialises in flex roles, one self-employed mum and an employment lawyer) while the kids played. Now, we want to take that further. McDonald’s has restaurants all across the country, and wants to help people have these conversations.
What specifically will happen?
We’re trialling an event called Let’s Talk About Flex. There will be one each in London, Edinburgh and Manchester, the first event is taking place on Wednesday 19th September. Three or four flex experts will be on hand to give specific advice about individual circumstances. There will be about 30 places (first come, first served) and people can bring their kids if they need to. We get lots of very specific questions, which we can’t always answer, and think that 10 minutes one on one with someone more qualified could make a big difference.
What about McDonald’s record on flexible working?
Like anything, it’s not 100% perfect, but from our conversations and research it does seem to be good, and they too have been banging the drum for years. One of Matt’s first pieces in journalism was for a trade mag called Human Resources magazine in 2005, where he interviewed the HR boss of McDonald’s UK (who now runs HR for the firm globally). Even back then, they were talking their flex credentials and the benefits it gives them as a business. Anecdotally, McDonald’s employees have also told us good things, and we know they have policies in place that back up the stories we’ve heard. It seems to us that their advocacy to flexible working is genuine.
What about the zero-hours contracts?
Flexible working should be about mutual benefit. Our view is that zero-hours contracts usually put all the expectations for flex on the employee, with the employer giving no commitment in return. They also tend to be imposed on staff, rather than giving them a choice.
In the UK and Ireland, from day one in the job all McDonald’s staff can choose between flexible contracts and fixed-hour contracts. While the flexible contracts don’t guarantee a set number of hours each week, they still come with the same benefits as fixed-hour contracts, including holiday pay and health insurance. People get their schedule in advance and there’s no exclusivity clause stopping them working for other companies.
Of their 120,000 staff in the UK, about 90% chose flexible contracts when given the option of flex or fixed-hours. It’s that element of choice – along with hundreds of messages we’ve had from serving or former McDonald’s staff – that convinced us this partnership could work. The official company line can be found here.
What about the food, though?
We both eat there a few times a year, have done since childhood and remain suckers for an occasional Big Mac. We’ve taken our eldest a few times as part of an effort to introduce her to as many different food types as possible, but wouldn’t take her every day. Everyone needs a balanced diet, and kids in particular. But how you get a healthy balance it is up to you, and McDonald’s seem pretty open about what’s in their food and where it comes from.
This editorially-independent post was created in partnership with McDonald’s.