What is a “family friendly” workplace?

I have a small CPA office with only 3 employees and 6 during tax time. One staff also a CPA is a Mom with husband and 3 kids ages 4 – 10 and now 4 kids as she took in an exchange student age 12 for more money. I have given her what she wants part time from 9 – 2 to drop off and pickup kids from school. School and home is only a 10 minute drive. A year ago she only worked 3 days a week but last fall needed another 10 hours only to support a rental property they bought. She gets laid off for the summer so she can be with the kids. Last September I called her back to work and said that she put her resume into a large “Family Friendly” CPA firm and could not commit herself to me until she heard from them by October 31st. So I gave her the extra 10 hours even though I did not have the extra work and waited patiently for her to tell me whether or not she was staying. The firm she applied to did not give her an interview and in her cover letter she told them her expectations and hours of work.

I know she wants to work for this firm and did not even apply anywhere else and I am just a stopgap. I pay her well but cannot afford benefits. I have paid for her to take professional development courses and pay her wages at the same time. Her 10 years’ experience is audits but my firm provides corporate business and individual services. So while she is working for me she is getting experience she does not have. She does not do any professional reading at home as she said she has no time as she is a “Mommy”. So I give professional updates at the office. I don’t think she appreciates what I am doing for her. Even though she wants to start at 9 she sometimes is not in as she is running late dropping the kids off at school. Then later she is in an extreme hurry to pick up the kids and runs out the office.

I told her that her hours are 9 – 2 as she wanted. So if she arrives late she still leaves at 2. But she wants to work after 2 when she can so she can make up for lost wages. She will text me at the last minute or late the night before if she will be in late in the morning and why. It’s not occasional and is getting more frequent.

The problem is: She thinks she can shift her start and end times at her whim. According to her this is “Family Friendly”. Her excuses are that her other employer let her arrive late but she made up her time. But that employer was over an hour’s drive and she was working full-time in a much larger office. She never knows when her husband will be called to work as a cable guy and he takes priority . So if he is at home to look after the kids she thinks she can stay later and work beyond 2 pm. Is it unfair of me to not want to allow her to make up her time after 2 pm? (I can if I want to but not during tax time when she works 9 – 5). Also how should I handle things during tax time if she juggles her time?

She was not just late due to dropping off kids at school. The following are other reasons for her being late or not being able to come in at all:

1. They got a new dog so she had to go home during her working hours to feed and walk the dog numerous times

2. She had to take her Mother-in-law to the Doctors because everyone else was “working”

3. She forgot she volunteered to drive school kids to a field trip

4. She took time off to watch her daughter play volleyball

5. She took time off so she could go skating with the boys at school

6. She came in late after a number of Chiropractor appointments which I would think could have been scheduled better

7. She had to take the kids to either the Doctor or Dentist (this I totally understand)

8. And of course with 4 kids sick time to take care of them (this I totally understand)

I am going to speak to her tomorrow and tell her that we are “Family Friendly” and that she can take time off from 9 to 2 with my approval (I hardly disagree as you can see in the emails) but she will not be able to make up her time after 2 pm. During Tax Time she will have to work 9 -5 and if needing time off will require my approval.

But I would still like to have your opinion if I can.

Family friendly does not mean do whatever you want whenever you want. If she wants that she can darn well open her own firm. I mean, I’m self employed, so I can work whenever I want, and I can accept or turn down work based entirely on what I want on a particular day. Of course, that also means that I accept the consequences. For instance, if I tell a client, “No, I can’t do three articles for you this month, I can only do two because my precious snowflake has started violin lessons and between battling the teacher, who wants her to have a $4000 violin* to begin with, and listening to the practicing, I can’t handle the stress of an extra article!” then the client might just say, “Thanks, but no thanks, I’ll find someone else.” Additionally, if the client agrees to two articles, she certainly won’t pay me for three.

Personally, your set up sounds amazing and almost makes me want to be a CPA so I can work for you. (Okay, that’s a lie, as I would be the world’s worst accountant.) But, talk about a family friendly set up: She can be home to pick up and drop off her kids from school. She has summers off. (And you even lay her off so I presume she’s eligible for unemployment.) That IS family friendly.

When she’s working 9:00-2:00 she should be able to schedule most appointments outside of that time frame. I do say most because sometimes you simply take what you can get. But, for a dental cleaning or a pediatric check up or your regular chiropractor appointment you can schedule those so far out you can pick your times. (For the most part–I know there are exceptions, but realistically, if you call your dentist today and say, “I’d like to schedule a check up in June,” the response will be “what day and what time would you like?”)

Sick kids happen, and I’m thrilled that you accept that as part of life.

But the thing that actually concerns me the most about this woman is number 2. She had to take her Mother-in-law to the Doctors because everyone else was “working.” This totally demonstrates that she doesn’t see her job for you as “work” but rather an an income generator, which she seems quite fond of. (And note, this also demonstrates some family dynamics that need fixing–why is her job not considered “work” when other family members’ jobs are?) After all, she’s now got rental property and an exchange student in order to generate money. (Really? An exchange student as a profit center? I feel totally sorry for that kid! And isn’t 12 a bit young to be an exchange student?) The rental property isn’t working out to0 well if she needs to work more hours to afford it.

So, I wholeheartedly support your plan to be straightforward and set hard boundaries. I’d also add to it that if she can’t meet those restrictions, you’ll have to terminate her. For Mother-in-law appointments, MIL either needs to hit up one of her kids or schedule after 2:00 and not during tax season. Your employee needs to learn that the job is a priority. A top priority. Yes, if MIL falls and breaks her hip or the exchange student has a break down because she’s skimping money on his support in order to make a profit off him (I seriously can’t believe this part. Someone who has done exchange student hosting, help me out here. Is it possible to make a profit on this?), then that’s an emergency. But, other things need to be scheduled around work.

Now, I’m even going to be a little harsh here. If she was working full time, it would be totally realistic for her to have to take time off during the day for various things–and that would be family friendly. But, since her schedule is family friendly, she’s got to do her part to be business friendly. Sometimes, having a job means you have to miss the class party (sometimes this is a blessing, just saying).

The hardest part is going to be for you–to stand up to her. When she demands more hours, or comes in whenever or schedules things without prior approval, you’ll have to stand up to her. You may end up needing to terminate her. And, I bet there other CPA moms out there who would love the schedule you have. And who won’t take advantage of you.

*Seriously. Does my daughter’s violin teacher get a commission from the the music store? Because I’m not shelling out big bucks for a better violin. Twinkle Twinkle performed by a beginner would sound awful on the Vieuxtemps Guarneri, so let’s stick with the cheap violin until she proves herself to be dedicated.

Related Posts

21 thoughts on “What is a “family friendly” workplace?

  1. @Suzanne: bless that violin teacher’s heart… A $4000 violin? For a beginner?? I couldn’t convince my parents to shell out a few hundred for one since I hadn’t mastered the piano to their satisfaction (and believe me, they hadn’t set particularly high standards so their skepticism was well founded).

    @OP: I have an incredibly flexible job and your accommodations still sound a world away more generous than what I’ve got. I had the same reaction to point #2 – so she doesn’t consider this to be work? It’s like an employee I had once who insisted she HAD to rake excessive phone calls to book gigs because she needed that money and work. Yes, but in the meantime you do actually have to work THIS job if you still plan on drawing a paycheck.
    There’s generosity and understanding, then there’s what this employee wants. And heck yes I’d become a CPA mom who appreciated working for you if that was an option 🙂

    1. Well, she did say I could rent it. But, then if my little darling breaks it, i’m out $4k. The teacher then argued I could file with my insurance–which is true, but first I’d have to purchase a rider for the $4k violin and then filing a claim would affect my rates for a long time.

      I actually have no opposition to buying her an expensive violin when she needs one.

      Sorry for the digression. I’m a pianist myself, and I totally get that instruments aren’t equal.

      But, on topic–yeah, it sounds like an awesome place to work. I bet if she gets the job at the “family friendly” place she’ll come running back a few months in when finds out family friendly during tax time means you can have Sundays off. (My Brother-in-Law is an accountant, and he basically doesn’t see his kids during tax season.)

      1. Put your foot down. Buy a second hand instrument and let her practice. Is she even big enough for a full size violin? You’ll have to keep buying bigger ones. My third hand viola is just perfect.

        1. She is big enough–she’s 11 and 5 feet tall. I’m not giving in on this. Have no fear.

      2. Let me guess, you not only “have” to buy a $4k violin, but it has to be bought from Crazy Hugo’s Violin Emporium?

        Yes, I’m a suspicious cynic.

        1. Ha, ha, no. It would be great if she was like, “I have this violin in my car. It’s the the only one that will work for your daughter.”

          She did suggest a music store, but it’s the biggest one in town.

          We’re sticking with the cheap violin for the first few years.

      3. I wonder why the teacher is so insistent (invested in, even?) on the expensive one. Referral kickback?? 🙂

        Agreed, I don’t know of a regular job that is this accommodating much less accounting during the busy season.

        1. I think the teacher’s motives are pure. She can probably hear the difference in quality and it drives her nuts.

          Me? I think all beginning string instrument players sounds horrible. Regardless of instrument.

          And yeah, whoever heard of an accounting job that lets you go home at 5:00 during tax season? Not me. And I’m still waiting on some 1099s. Curses.

  2. You have an employee who is taking advantage of your flexibility, so you need to tell her she has gone too far.

    Other parents manage all this and much more. I might even go so far as to do a little sleuthing on the school website for pre-class childcare policies/programs.. Since it seems the school drop off is an issue. Can the kids get into the building early enough for her to plan a cushion into her morning schedule?

  3. This woman is a Special Snowflake. The rules don’t apply to her because she is too special. You have been more than generous. Set some boundaries now. She can’t even pretend that her job is a priority. Personally, I would fire her now. Does she bring *any* value to your organization? I can’t see it. If you want to be kinder, set up an improvement plan and enforce it to the letter. Maybe a month, no longer. I’m sure you could find another employee.

    1. You know what I should have pointed out but didn’t? The other employees probably resent the check out of this woman.

      1. Suzanne, I was thinking exactly this. Especially if any of them are single–sometimes it seems as though people with kids get treated differently (I’m not talking about going home early to care for a sick child; I’ve done that and it’s not a vacation, LOL). But this woman is clearly taking advantage.

        And as long as she is getting away with it, the OP risks losing her good employees, because they will not put up with this for long. Especially if they end up doing her work because she had to schlep Biffy to a ballet class.

        1. Yep. It’s going to bug the other employees, especially during tax season.

          Accounting during tax season is crazy.

        2. Almost everywhere I’ve worked people with kids are treated differently. It used to infuriate me, then I was just careful to make a botch of their work when I was asked to take it on. Hasn’t happenned recently.

  4. I am SHOCKED that she didn’t get an interview after spelling out her ridiculous demands. Who does that? After you get an offer, then you can ask for some accomodations and maybe get them. No one wants to hire you when you tell them you’ll come to work if it’s convenient.

    Family Friendly means you can occasionally work from home on snow/sick days. You can leave for an appt sometimes after your boss approves it.

  5. I agree. This employee is totally taking advantage of you! Clarify the boundries and the consequences for when she crosses the line. She is acting like SHE is doing YOU the favour by putting in some hours at her convenience. But perhaps she should be seeing it as YOU doing HER the favour by being so accommodating. She either sees this as a job or she doesn’t. And if she needs the money then she needs to start earning it by putting in the effort and time. It is great to be ‘family-friendly’ and accommodating but it is your business and you are allowed to set the parameters.

    1. Yep. That sums it up.

      Now, of course, we do do our bosses favors by working for them because otherwise they wouldn’t make as much money. But, that goodwill only goes so far. And, I am sure that this business owner could find lots of moms who would love this deal.

      I know lots of SAHMs who wish they could work part time and lots of full time working moms who wish they could work part time.

  6. I’m pretty familiar with foreign exchange programs. Some do pay host families, though I think it’s less a profit center and more a stipend to cover associated costs. That being said, the US Department of State only grants foreign exchange visas to secondary school students (15 and older), which sets off some alarm Bella for me. All that being said, there are hundreds of programs out there, so it is possible that someone is paying her to host a 12-year-old. I’d imagine there have to be easier ways to make money, though!

    1. I would expect a stipend. After all, teenagers are expensive! And if I sent my kid on an exchange, I’d expect to cover full costs, including food and new shoes and make up and whatever a teen needs.

      But, I wouldn’t expect anyone to make a profit off it!

  7. “But, since her schedule is family friendly, she’s got to do her part to be business friendly.” Exactly! Perfect way to phrase it.

Comments are closed.

Are you looking for a new HR job? Or are you trying to hire a new HR person? Either way, hop on over to Evil HR Jobs, and you'll find what you're looking for.