I should never have been on benefits, but lack of flexible working cost the tax payer thousands…

I have taken the picture from The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, by Charlie Mackesy, as it is such a wonderful book, full of wisdom and simplicity that the whole family can enjoy. You can buy it and learn more here

But of course, what this picture is about, is togetherness. Those of you who know me know that I believe in working together, supporting others, uplifting others and asking others to lift me up too, as it is only fear that stops us from being the best humans we can be..

I was blissfully unaware of issues surrounding flexible working in my 20’s and early 30’s. As I was blissfully ignorant and judgemental around benefits. I had been quite happy for 20 years in my 9-5 (or more like 8-8), and short of wishing it was a four day week, so that I could get things done, like mortgage phone calls and fridge deliveries or electrician appointments etc, I wasn’t too troubled, as at least I could swim at 7am and visit the gym until 9pm.. it was when I became a single mum, I realised I was living this crazy world of presenteeism, that actually destroyed so many people!

My story was quite simple. I needed to be back for childcare by 5:30 I think it was. I asked work during maternity leave if I could leave at 4:30, they said no, so I ‘chose’ to resign and look for part-time work… had they said yes, I would have continued to pay my mortgage and live happily ever after in ignorance and judgement! Of course I’m so glad I didn’t! Instead, the only part-time work available was low paid, low skilled, meaning that a) I needed to apply for benefits and b) my home was repossessed c) I needed credit cards to buy food and d) I needed pay day loans to pay utilities, such as water, (rates, not meter as was in rented (less than 12 month contract) so I paid an awful lot more than I used (whilst the CEO had a £21 million bonus)), and ended up in a pit of financial despair fighting to work for my skillset and salary, whilst studying and setting up a business to give myself increased long term hope! I was never unwilling to work, I loved work, but I was trapped, on benefits, eventually suicidal after pay day loans ran out and so on… ( I am okay now!)

But, that is a story long told, what then happened, once I had overcome all of that, I set-up the SMBN so that no single mother would fight solo as I had, and I knew they might be struggling, but I didn’t want them to feel alone with that. I then, banged on and on about flexible working and all of these discriminations that pushed me onto benefits and into more debt. It took me so long to even speak about benefits I was so ashamed. But I didn’t blink at paying 20% + of my wages to the tax pot for 20 years prior to this; I was happy to be part of a country that had a pot so that all were educated, in good health and good home.. but sadly, it’s evident that isn’t the reality, and I trusted that money in misplaced faith, and I was treaded so badly when I needed to use it.

My point – as I was banging on about flexible working, I was made aware of others doing the same, it turned out this wasn’t a new problem! Women have been fighting this for a long time.. and some men too! See Michael Ray So, instead of pushing with my own agenda, wanting recognition for my own ego, I am more concerned with the outcome. It is so important that we stop this idiocy, and stop increasing the tax bill by pushing people onto benefits when they want to work (for their skillset and salary), but have all kinds of barriers due to presenteeism. We have an easy answer to a struggling economy, why are we still fighting this?!

  • Anyway, this article posted by Timewise really inspired me this morning, such a brilliant, clear, statistical report…. Flexible Jobs Index 2020 – Timewise – Flexible Working Research – which is always music to my ears as I never do stats, but it is so clear , 9 out of 10 want flexible working and only 2 out of ten roles are offered flexibility. Equally, it is clear evidence of the discrimination, as stated:
  • Part-time is common amongst low-paid jobs but is virtually a no-go option at higher salaries.

That means that when we have childcare responsibilities, we not only pay less tax, but are more likely to need tax credits. This is what needs to be clear to the Government, the financial impact of presenteeism.

The most painful part of my journey was when my best friend of 30 years accused me of being work shy and having an attitude problem. I’m sure any man on £30K would have the same attitude problem if he were told that instead of leaving an hour early he had to reduce his pay by £18K, start claiming benefits, live in rented instead of home ownership, lose his pension contributions and be a tenant til his last breath instead of paying of his mortgage and leaving an estate to his children. Needless to say I realised how so many people really don’t get this, and I have my work cut out, and I lost, who I thought, knew me and had my back.

I have been very impressed by the work also of Pregnant then Screwed. Initially, when I started vocalising my complaints, I was told about the organisation, but my conservative mindset meant that I didn’t take it seriously enough to engage for some months, I was bit judgy over the language, now that I am over the terminology, and over myself, I apologise as the work Jo Brierley is nothing short of brilliant. Equally we have Ellamental Mama and Neesie, all fighting so that we can simply stop suffering financially as a result of our status (I specifically support the Ellamental Mama discrimination Bill as the water rates has been the worst discrimination I ever faced, alongside being refused a home by landlords). I celebrate and applaud them all. There is another charity, that consistently follows and uses my work, without quoting it. Whilst they are funded by public money, and I am not. My ego would be offended, but the mission is more important, the outcome is more important, by pulling together and not wanting to be ‘the one’ who made this happen, our voices will be stronger, more united, and eventually, if we all support each other, it really doesn’t matter who reaches the goal post first, what matters, is the end result, what matters, is that we are no longer pregnant, then screwed.

Jules

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It’s not just about uniting in battle, it’s about uniting in life. I celebrate so many networking companies and parenting and mummy groups, we need each other. I just found out about mush mums yesterday. I would have found out about them years ago if other networks and social media pages had shared what they new. I celebrate sistr, All by Mama, Thrive, Unique Ladies, 1230, Chamber, Sterling, WiRE, Come Network with Me, Women of Spirit, Woman Who, Frolo, Business Women in [Glos, Wilts etc].. and so many more – we ALL need choice, and there are enough people who need us, it’s an abundance mindset and not operating from a place of fear.

As with flexible working, there are SO many incredible flexible working platforms now, they are all working so hard for the same outcome, not to struggle, lose our pensions and homes, because we are the ones with ovaries.. Entrepreneurism is us fighting for our worth, it’s not the easy option, you’ve locked us out of salaries, and we’ve had enough.

You have ‘That Works for Me’, ‘Flexible Working People’, 9to3, Ten2Two, Flexology, and again so many more. The more we support each other so that companies offer 100% flexible working instead of 22% the more we can protect vulnerable women, (and men) new to needing work that enables them to be what they need to be, from being targeted by predatory companies recruiting a work force to work for free, without any salary, stability, pension, holiday pay, sick pay or annual leave, and again, the quicker we can reduce the tax bill, collectively.

Thank you for reading, and feel free to let me know if you have been missed out and you want a mention x

More about me here