Flexible working key to personal finance, says CBI

We all know that starting a family can be one of the most financially strenuous periods in a person's life. There is the slight bit of leeway that…

We all know that starting a family can be one of the most financially strenuous periods in a person's life. There is the slight bit of leeway that comes from being on maternity or paternity leave and still getting a cheque in your account, but this is only short-term relief.

After this period has passed, parents need to decide whether they will both return to work and foot the bill for potentially expensive childcare or rely on a single or part-time income. These scenarios formed one of the main topics of conversation at a recent debate that was hosted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

As part of its Great Business Debate, the organisation brought in Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts, who was on hand to talk to business representatives from some of the most recognisable names in the UK about the importance of flexibility in the workplace.

Ms Roberts was in conversation with the likes of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Barclays and Centrica to talk sensible and realistic approaches to maternity and paternity leave and the period that follows it. Also joining in the debate were a host of writers from some of the most well-known 'mum and dad' blogs.

Best for both parties

One of the key findings from the debate was the fact that working flexibility can actually prove hugely advantageous for a worker and their employer, rather than it having to be a process of negotiation initiated from the employee.

It was said that a philosophy of job flexibility should be taken on from the time that a job is first advertised, as this may put many potential applicants' minds at rest – especially given the fact that CBI research has shown around a third of people are reticent about the level of job flexibility available when searching for a new role.

The result could be that individuals who envisage maybe starting a family shortly after taking on a role will have the confidence to apply, effectively meaning the firm has a better pool of labour to choose from.

The effect on labour retention

Disputes over flexible working hours can in some cases lead to a departure. However, giving up an income so soon after bringing a child into the world can be a huge pressure on an individual's personal finance.

In some cases, families may decide that borrowing is the best way to get through this transitional period, but it is essential to have a rigid debt management plan in place to avoid financial stresses becoming out of control.

By Amy White

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