Working for Sandwell Council

Work life balance

Information on helping Sandwell employees achieve a work life balance.

The world of work is changing: new technology, new opportunities, new global pressures, more women working, fewer young people and more older people. The Council must ensure that the way we work today reflects the present and the future, not the past. That is what we seek to address in our policies on work-life balance. It is about developing working practices that benefit both the Council and it's employees.

Successful organisations depend on good people. They recognise that the ability and skills of the people who work for them are their most valuable resource.

At the same time, everyone has a life outside of work. We may have children or other caring responsibilities, or want to pursue other interests. Findings ways to link individual employees needs to service delivery needs makes sense to both.

Work-life balance is about identifying a more imaginative approach to working practices, which will benefit the Council and benefit the workforce.

The demands of the economy are changing rapidly and people's needs are changing accordingly. Customers increasingly expect, for example, to be able to access services outside traditional working hours. Working patterns are changing to meet this demand.

Childcare policy

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council takes its duty as a caring employer and provider of services seriously, this responsibility is reflected in recognising that it needs to retain staff while acknowledging the other responsibilities employees may have.

Development of parent friendly initiatives can only serve to improve the work environment, reduce levels of absence and create greater honesty between managers and the workforce. Employees need assurance that they are not discriminated against because they have family responsibilities, otherwise employees become torn between their responsibilities to their workplace and their parental responsibilities.

Work and caring responsibilities

These include:

  • the mismatch between full time 9 - 5 weekday jobs and the availability of affordable child care arrangements, as well as parents' wishes to spend more time with their children.
  • the growing tensions between needing or wanting to work whilst also having care commitments.

Traditionally these have been seen as women's issues. However there is growing evidence that men want or expect to spend more time with their children than their fathers did, and are experiencing tensions between the demands of their jobs and their parental aspirations.

It is not always recognised that men can share the same problems combining work and family. Stereotyped attitudes towards men's roles in the family are not easily overcome; managers need to be aware of the dangers and resist them.

As a caring and understanding employer, the authority has developed a range of initiatives which are in operation to support employees with child care responsibilities.

These include flexible working, job share, part time working, term-time working, extended leave scheme, maternity leave, adoptive parents leave, maternity support leave, summer play scheme and compassionate leave.

The majority of Council employees should be allowed to partake in the above Council policies for child care reasons. Managers should make every effort to appreciate an employees child care needs and be as flexible as possible to try and accommodate their required working hours.

Releasing employees from their duties

All employees, unless there are extenuating circumstances, must be released from their duties if their child had been taken ill whilst they are at work. It is legally the parents responsibility for that child and not that of the carer or teacher. Managers must have an understanding when employees are faced with this situation, and they are released from work without putting the employee under any further stress.

When children become ill it results in crisis for working parents. The priority should be to provide the child with the comfort, care and support to enable them to recover. Employees must be allowed to take time off at short notice when their child is ill and no other suitable child care arrangements can be made. For example, a child with chickenpox will not be allowed to attend crèches/schools.

When circumstances beyond the employees control arise, for example, normal child care arrangements for collecting children from school have let them down, employees are faced with making emergency alternative arrangements and may have to take time off at short notice.

Managers must respond with empathy to employees faced with situations, they will already be feeling guilty without having to take on further stress.

Employees will use their annual leave, flexi leave, cares leave, unpaid leave or make up the time after to credit the time taken off during their normal working hours.

Flexible working

More and more employees will now be requesting a variance of their normal working hours to accommodate child care arrangements. Employees should have the right to have any refusal to any requests explained and not simply refused.

Arranging meetings involving those with parental responsibilities

Managers must consider the commitments of employees when organising meetings earlier in the morning, later in the afternoon or on days other than usual work time. Do not devalue their contribution to the workplace by implying that their hours of work are inconvenient to management needs.

Child care provision

The Council operates two crèches in the borough, but only a limited number of placements are available. The Council is committed to the development of child care provision and will strive to continue to make improvements by working in partnership with other departments and agencies.

Flexi-Time scheme

The flexible working hours scheme enables you to work hours suited to your personal circumstances. For the scheme to be successful it must be operated with an acceptance of the principle that the interest of the public and the running of the Council's services are paramount.

The definition of working hours is as follows:

Standard working hours:

  • 9am - 1pm
  • 2pm - 5.30 pm (5pm on Fridays)

Flexible working hours:

  • Band width 6am - 8pm
  • Minimum lunch break of 1/2 hour

You can have up to two days off in a calendar month (providing you have sufficient credit hours).

A maximum of 15 hours credit or five hours debit may be carried forward from one calendar month to the next. You cannot carry forward a debit balance of flexi-time hours for more than three consecutive months.

Part-time working scheme

The part time working scheme allows you to reduce your working week from your original contracted hours to the number of hours that suit your personal circumstances. These hours can be worked over the 5 days or on a certain number of days.

For example:

37 hour week, reduced by 12 hours over 5 days

  • Monday = 5 hour day
  • Tuesday = 5 hour day
  • Wednesday = 5 hour day
  • Thursday = 5 hour day
  • Friday = 5 hour day
  • Total = 25 hours

You must give a month's notice in advance of your wish to reduce your working week.

Your annual salary will be pro-rata to the number of contracted hours worked. All terms and conditions will be pro-rata to the number of hours contracted to work.

The flexible working hours scheme may apply and flexitime will be pro-rata to the number of hours contracted to work.

In consultation with the your line manager an agreement is made on what action is taken on the hours that are reduced. For example, you may wish to reduce your hours for a short period of time only and return back to full time after an agreed period.

However, each application will be dealt with individually on its merits and will be subject to management approval and service requirements.

Certain posts will be excluded from part time working where they are required for a number of fixed hours per day and are required at a particular time of the day where service requirements are such that operationally it is not possible for you to benefit from part time working.

Job sharing

Job sharing is defined as the voluntary sharing of an established post with the salary shared on a pro-rata basis.

Generally the job share must be broken down into two equal parts with each sharer working 18.5 hours per week.

The alternative patterns of work that job sharers may normally be expected to use are:-

a) Split days - One sharer works each morning each week and the other works each afternoon.

b) Split weeks - One works the first half of week (i.e. 2.5 days) while the other works the second half.

Other patterns of work may be considered, however a lot will depend upon the nature of the job, and would have to be agreed by both the sharers and the department.

Term-time working

The basis of the contract is that you would be employed for 38 weeks, throughout the year, during term-time only. For the purpose of the contract, the number of weeks include leave and bank holidays.

Salary is paid on a pro-rata basis. You must agree to take annual leave during school holidays and not during term-time, however, it is at the Service Manager's discretion to allow leave to be taken at other times of the year. Additionally, you will take unpaid leave during the school breaks.

For the purpose of employment rights, service will be classed as continuous.

Compassionate leave

In the event of serious family illness of a close relative, up to three days leave with pay may be granted for any one occasion.

Extended leave

If you have a minimum of 1 year's continuous local government service are eligible to apply for unpaid extended leave up to 12 months providing the break from employment is for the following reasons:-

a) care of children of all age groups
b) care of people with long term illness or with a disability
c) care of an elderly relative
d) entry to further and higher education
e) personal and family reasons

Maternity leave

Women have a minimum entitlement of 18 maternity weeks leave regardless of the number of hours they work or length of service they have.

If you have 1 years continuous local government service or more at 11 weeks before the expected week of confinement you are entitled to 29 weeks leave from the week the confinement takes place.

Maternity support leave

This scheme provides an entitlement of 5 days paid leave for the child's father or partner or nominated carer of an expectant mother at or around the time of the birth.

A nominated carer is the person nominated by the mother as their provider of support at or around the time of the birth. In most cases, such care and support leave will be self-evident. This person has to be an employee of Sandwell MBC and must provide a copy of the MAT.B1. Leave will not normally be appropriate for employees acting in substitution for the father (or partner) who cannot get time off from their place of work.

Paternity and additional paternity leave

Paternity leave

Eligible employees can take one or two whole weeks leave together (but  not two separate weeks).  Duration and pay is dependant upon length of service.

Additional paternity leave

Eligible employees can take up to 26 weeks additional paternity leave which is aimed at giving both parents more choice in child care responsibilities and a more equitable sharing of leave entitlements.

Adoptive parents leave

The adoptive parents leave scheme is open to both male and female employees. However, you are not eligible to apply for the scheme where your spouse/partner is not in employment or has already been granted similar leave. In these cases you are eligible to 5 days leave in accordance with the Council's Maternity Support Leave.

You must have at least 1 year's local government service including 26 weeks or more service with Sandwell MBC at the point of the commencement of leave.

Based on the requirements/expectations of the Home Finding Team in the Social Inclusion Service area in respect of the amount of time adoptive parents should be able to spend with the child, the maximum period of time-off allowed is 26 weeks, which can be taken in one block or flexibly over a period of 12 months.

You are entitled to a maximum of 7 week's half pay which the Council can reclaim if you do not return to work and complete 3 months service at the end of the leave or end of the last period of leave if it is not taken in one block.

Carers leave

Employees are allowed to bank up to a maximum of two weeks of their weekly contracted hours for time off in lieu in emergencies i.e. care of a sick child. Once an employee has accumulated the number of hours they wish to bank they will work their normal contracted week. Employees can then use this time they have accumulated to take time off for the reasons stated below:

  • Care for a sick child
  • Care for an elderly relative
  • Care for a relative with a disability
  • Care of dependent relatives or partners

Time off for dependants

Employees are entitled to a short of amount of time during their working hours in order to take action which is necessary in a number of different circumstances. Employees now have the right to reasonable amounts of time off:

  • to help when dependent falls ill or is injured
  • to cope when the arrangements for caring for a dependent unexpectedly breaks down
  • when a dependent gives birth
  • when a dependent dies
  • to make funeral arrangements
  • to deal with disruption/termination of care
  • to deal with unexpected/incidents involving a dependent child during school or on a school trip.

Parental leave

Parental leave is unpaid and can be taken for a maximum of 18 weeks to care for each child under 5 years old or 18 if the child has a disability.

Parental leave is time off work to look after your child or to make arrangements for the good of your child.

Employees who have a 1 year's local government service are entitled to 18 weeks (unpaid) parental leave for each child (including an adopted child) who is under 5 years old, or 18 if the child is disabled.

Home-working

Home-working helps the Council to retain experienced staff and also access a wider pool of labour. For employees, home-working can offer more flexibility and control over working hours, the chance for continued career development and increased job satisfaction.

Obviously, not every job is suitable for home-working, but many may be, particularly with accelerating IT development. Service Managers will consider employees' requests and decide whether individual jobs would be appropriate for home-working.

Emergency Leave Scheme

The Emergency leave scheme is to help employees balance their home and work commitments.

The scheme allows the employees to bank up to 37 hours which can be used when personal or domestic issues arise which require immediate attention.

All emergency leave requests will be considered by line managers on a case by case basis.  Time accrued and taken will be monitored and approved by line managers.

Employees are expected to remain in touch with the line manager during any periods of emergency leave.

Please note that the scheme is not available for the following employees:-

  • teachers
  • templink workers

Emergency leave will be banked separately to hours accrued for flexi or carers leave. 

Pages in "Working for Sandwell Council"

  1. Working for Sandwell Council
  2. Recruitment incentives
  3. You are here Work life balance
  4. Successful candidates