Nothing wrong in asking for a pay rise


A recent survey by YouGov for the Sunday Times, found that British women are less likely to ask for either a pay rise or a promotion, than men.

I’m sorry, but this isn’t news to me and the findings don’t surprise me in the slightest.

Although women can manage the household budget and make most of the larger financial decisions at home, they are totally embarrassed about managing their own worth in the workplace.  One friend once confided that if she was worth a pay rise, then her boss would make sure she got one.  I wasn’t sure if she was scared of being told ‘No’ or not confident enough to ask.

Most men don’t seem to have the same reluctance, they also have more confidence to stand up for themselves and on average get paid more than  women doing the same job – (on a personal note, this has always seemed an appalling situation to me, employers should set a rate for the job irrespective of the gender of the person doing it.)

In these uncertain times, hanging on to a job, any job, it a top priority for men and women alike. Unfortunately, most of the low paid, part-time jobs are done by women and when cuts have to be made, this is where the axe usually falls.

I haven’t any solutions and perhaps it is just that women are more interested in the broader picture of life, than the narrow view provided by work; whatever the reason women do need to find more confidence in the workplace.

See the full YouGov survey results here


A new man?

“What do you think of the wine?”
“Mm it’s not bad. It will be better when it’s warmed up a bit though.”
“Ah well, usually I’d agree with you, but not this time. This wine can be drunk straight after opening.”
“Well, I prefer my red wine at room temperature.”

A slight pause ensues. He is trying very hard to be nice to me. I feel annoyed with myself. This meal is a complete surprise and is very welcome. I have been attending a conference for two days; in the normal way of things I would return home, we would make a little small talk about his days and my days, I would fuss over the dog, then shower and change and make dinner. But not tonight! Tonight I am seated in a very nice restaurant, waiting for my red wine to warm up a little and recovering from the shock of his greeting, “When you are showered and changed, I am taking you out”.

My husband is not a house husband. He has told me this on many occasions so it must be true. Although he is retired now from his former high-powered job and has time to follow his hobbies, visit friends, walk the dog, watch tv, he sees no reason to add shopping, cooking or helping with the housework to his activities. My sister says that it’s an ‘age thing’. There is an age gap, but not a generation!

I watch him watching cookery programmes and see his obvious delight and appreciation in food well cooked and nicely presented. If I happen to leave the room, I am used to his shout of, ‘You need to come and see this, this looks great and not too much messing around’, as if he intends to make the dish himself some time soon.

I have thrown things at him in the past but to no avail.

When I came home a couple of weeks ago, from a meeting in London, I sat him down and told him we needed to have a serious conversation. And we did. I asked if he would please try and help more; if he noticed that we were out of bread, toilet rolls, teabags, coffee, whatever, it would be a great help if he’d go and buy what we needed when he was out next, and not leave messages on my mobile telling me what we were short of, and asking if I could collect them on my way home!

I also asked him if he remembered the times a few years ago, when he used to get home after a few stressful days away; the lovely dinner waiting for him, how he could just relax and unwind, even nod off in the chair……..

A few quiet, thoughtful days followed. Later in the week, I noticed a different type of bread left out on the work surface. I opened my mouth and closed it again very quickly. Bread is bread, more or less I decided, and perhaps he liked this brand better than the one I usually buy. I eat very little bread. I put it away and said nothing.

A few days later, a different brand of teabags appeared. I don’t drink tea, but wondered why he had chosen this brand. My curiosity got the better of me and I asked him. He told me that when he went out to buy the bread, he was amazed at all the different varieties and thought he would try something different. He gave the same reason for the choice of teabags, and also said that he fully intended buying yet another brand when these were finished.

He added that although he had listened and understood what I was getting at, he would have a problem when it came to replacing the coffee. He doesn’t drink coffee. Would it be alright if he just bought the same brand again?

I said that would be perfect.

2010 – not trying to be superwoman!

I am back in the office today after the holiday and, as usual after a break, after a couple of hours it feels as though I have never been away!  I tidied my desk before I left on Christmas Eve, no mean feat given the amount of paperwork that had landed on it during the previous few days, but I knew how good I would feel when I unlocked my door and saw the vast expanse of mellow, polished wood, bare except for my pc, filing trays, pen holders and telephone.  And I did! I also patted myself on the back for getting the Christmas present buying and wrapping all done and dusted with seven shopping days to spare! 

This is so unlike me.  I accepted years ago that I am one of those “last minuters”, one of the group of people who make organised folk hold up their hands in horror.  I could have a mountain of work to do or very little and either way, it will be finished with about five minutes to spare – there is always something else that needs doing, that seems more interesting.

I have been trying hard to understand why I changed, why my Christmas was more organised this year and why I was so determined to have a clear desk on my return to work.

I know I have driven my family mad on occasions, such as we are about to embark on a holiday and I have to go back because I have forgotten to pack something – toothbrushes usually.  Why was I not more organised? (Duet from husband and father here)  Of course I always resolved to change, but sadly it never happened. I always seemed to have so much to do though it all got done in the end.

My sister sent me a book recently, all about making more time for yourself. I read it and, as with most books of this type, thought how it would fit into my life.  I don’t come home from the office, after delegating goodness knows what, to goodness knows who, to find that the vegetables had been peeled and are waiting in water, or that a bath had been drawn and candles lit all around the sides!  But, the idea of more time for me, did stay with me longer than most.  Perhaps  my sub-conscious swung into action and, without realising why, I got the shopping out of the way, the house cleaned ready for guests and my office desk cleared for my return in the New Year.

Perhaps, also, I am my own worst enemy.  Maybe I have to accept that I can’t do everything,  that I am not Superwoman, but am instead a wife, mother and business woman who is just good enough!

Working mothers and maternity leave

According to a new report, one in three new mothers thinks that taking lengthy maternity leave has harmed her work prospects. Some think that, when they return to work the relationship they had previously with their boss has deteriorated.The research, carried out by the National Childbirth Trust found nearly four in ten mothers found things were very difficult when they returned to work after spending time off on maternity leave.

At present the amount of paid maternity leave in the UK is 39 weeks and Harriet Harman the Equality Minister is aiming to get this extended to a year. Now, whereas this may sound wonderful to some ears, to small businesses it can sound anything but.  If you own a small business, employing a few people and want to be competitive in your field, you will obviously only employ the number of staff you need for the work you have. Should one of your team become pregnant and eventually take her maternity leave, what options are open to you?

Can her workload be taken on by other members of staff?  Can you find a suitable temp who will fill in while the mother-to-be is off work? Can you add it to your already heavy workload?

If you can share her job between the other staff members, that’s great – but for how long? If she is going to be off for 39 weeks, what happens when your other staff want to take their holiday leave, or fall sick, what do you do then?  What about the temp?  If you are very lucky you may know someone who, after a minimal amount of training can do the job and things go swimmingly! Or you may have to resort to advertising for a replacement and, as we all know advertising is not cheap. If all else fails, you may go to a recruitment agency and ask them to supply a temporary worker to cover maternity leave.  Here you come up against another set of costs all together. Apart from the initial fee, you will be paying in all probability, a much higher rate for your temporary worker than you did for your soon-to-be-mum.

Now, don’t start shouting, I am all in favour of rights for working women; I would love to see every woman paid the same as a man doing the same job, but I also own a family business and have spent many years building it up and can see all too clearly the other side of the coin. While the mum-to-be is off her holiday entitlement still accrues; you have to pay maternity pay and also a salary to her replacement and, after a set time, you have to give them paid holiday leave too. After the paid 39 weeks, in the UK the new mum can opt to take extra unpaid leave of another13 weeks, meaning she could be off for a year.  In the meantime you have to cope as best you can, hoping that she will come back and eventually things will get back to normal.

But what if when she comes back, on her existing contract of employment, she announces that she can’t work full time.  She has problems with childcare arrangments, she has to work because she needs the money, but actually quite likes having an extended weekend with hubby and child, so, please can she work part time?  What do you do?  Under the present legislation, an employee with a child under 16,  has the right to ask for flexible working and, as an employer you have a duty to consider it. You don’t have to approve the request, but there is always the possibility perhaps, of being taken to an employment tribunal if you refuse.  If you have done everything correctly, the case would be dismissed, but there is always the time and worry involved in preparing and defending it. Then when that is over, you have to hope that perhaps the temp, if you managed to find one,will stay, if not you start all over again.

So Ms Harman, on behalf of all businesses, both small and large, I would urge you to think very carefully before adding extra weeks to maternity leave, for it appears that it is not just the business owners who aren’t particularly enamoured with your ideology, the new mums don’t seem too happy either