Actress makes history by being the first to secure job share role, but why don't more companies offer flexible working for parents?

A West End actress has made history by becoming the first to secure a role on a job share basis [Photo: Getty]
A West End actress has made history by becoming the first to secure a role on a job share basis [Photo: Getty]

Earlier this week, a performer made headlines for being the first West End actress to secure a job share with another woman.

Charlene Ford, a member of the ensemble in ‘42nd Street’ was initially told it would be impossible for her to return part time after giving birth.

But after another dancer offered to share the role, bosses agreed to the job-share set up.

Having returned to work this week, Charlene will appear in three out of the eight shows each week while Jenny Legg, who had covered her maternity leave, will do the other five performances.

Charlene will spend the rest of her time caring for her six-month-old son, Jenson.

The fact that this is news is proof that we still have a long way to go in the quest for truly flexible working for parents.

Following the announcement of Charlene’s return to work arrangement, campaign group, Parents in Performing Arts, declared it as a pivitol moment that would enable other actors to benefit from job sharing.

“This is a landmark moment for the theatre industry. It is a great sign of progress that a performer is empowered to negotiate for a solution that enables her to continue working while raising a family,” PIPA co-founder Cassie Raine told The Stage.

“It demonstrates how far the industry has come in its willingness to embrace change and work towards supporting carers and parents. As highlighted in the PIPA Best Practice Charter, this is a welcome step closer towards becoming a more family-friendly industry.”

Should more companies offer job share opportunities for parents? [Photo: Getty]
Should more companies offer job share opportunities for parents? [Photo: Getty]

There’s no doubt the case sets an example for other companies about how flexible working can, well, work.

But job sharing is hardly a new thing, so should we really be celebrating such a baby step in the drive forward for flexible working?

According to recent statistics more than 770,000 high earners now work part-time.

The report, by flexible-working group Timewise, also revealed that the number of part-time staff on salaries over £40,000 has increased by 5.7% in the year between 2016 and 2017, suggesting that employers are becoming more open to using job shares in senior roles.

The survey of 200 managers showed that two out of five would consider hiring candidates for a senior role as part of a job-share.

Commenting on the findings Timewise co-founder Karen Mattison told The Guardian: “The dramatic increase in job shares offers us a glimpse into how jobs will be designed in the future. All it takes is an open-minded employer who is prepared to try something new in a bid to hire or keep the best people, and an innovative solution is born.”

The fact is it costs time and money to train new employees, so coming up with more flexible ways of working that will help encourage parents to stay within the workforce has to be a good thing.

And that’s something Charlene certainly appreciates.

Speaking of her fight to secure a job share arrangement Charlene told The Stage: “I found myself in a situation where I am now a mum but I also love my job. So I thought to myself, ‘Why can’t this happen?’

“So I was like, ‘I am fighting this.’ My costumes were still there, and financially it wasn’t going to cost the producers any more, so I knew I had to fight it, and I dug my heels in.”

Baby step it may be but lets hope Charlene’s successful arrangement will serve as a reminder to other companies that job sharing can be a very viable option.

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