On employment: feeling flexible

By Alice Sorby on 05 March 2019 Midwives Magazine On Employment

I’m sure the start of the year already seems a distant memory for you all – I know there is no such thing as a quiet time in a maternity unit!

Here at RCM headquarters, the year began with reaction to the publication of the much-anticipated NHS long-term plan. We were pleased to see renewed commitment to the Maternity Transformation Programme (MTP) and the key pledges around continuity of carer. New aims targeting continuity of carer at women from BME backgrounds and other vulnerable groups were particularly welcome.

We do know however, that the idea of working in a continuity team as a midwife or MSW can feel daunting. Change is not always easy. The RCM has always said that while it supports the vision for maternity services in Better births, for it to become reality there needs to be enough staff with the time and resources. To support members and workplace representatives involved in setting up or working in this model, the RCM has developed its Nuts and bolts guidance, covering Agenda for Change terms and conditions, working time, rostering, on call, safe staffing and the NMC code. It’s important to remember that working in a new way doesn’t mean that existing policies and protections are thrown out of the window.

"Employers see how by being genuinely flexible, staff feel valued and more motivated”

With my New Year’s resolution to be positive still fresh in my mind, I think we can do more than just protect what we already have. Why can’t we use change as an opportunity to improve, to gain autonomy to develop working patterns that recognise the importance of work/life balance and health and wellbeing? Key to all this is flexible working. We are stuck in a vicious cycle; midwives are leaving the profession due to lack of opportunities to work flexibly, and there is already a shortage of 3500. Unless we keep experienced midwives, who have so much to contribute to the service, we won’t address the shortage of staff and realise the aims of Better births/Best start. The good news is that it isn’t just the RCM and other trade unions that are talking about the benefits of flexible working. Increasingly, employers are seeing how, by being genuinely flexible, staff feel valued and are more motivated. NHS Employers has produced its own guidance setting out the business case for flexible working.

The RCM’s guidance on the benefits and different types of flexible working is now available in the publications section of the RCM website along with the Nuts and bolts guidance for England, Wales and Scotland. I hope you find these resources useful, and please let me have any feedback – I want the employment relations documents we produce to be a real practical help to you.