Starting your own business is exciting, but it can also be risky - especially from a financial perspective! Most people are well aware that businesses often don’t make much money in their first year, so it’s useful to have an steady, alternate income stream. And one of the best ways to guarantee income is to negotiate your current role down to part-time.
But is it really that easy? We spoke to 3 HR Managers to find out.
If you want to negotiate your role down to part-time, the first thing you need to do is know your rights, says Elise, a HR Business Partner in the events industry.
“The good news for mums is that if you’re a carer of children school aged or younger, and you’ve been working for your employer for 12 months or more, you are legally eligible to request flexible working arrangements,” she says.
So how do you do this? According to Elise, Fair Work says you should follow a formal process, however, depending on your relationship with your employer, you may not need to approach things so formally. She recommends that:
“Sit down with your manager and have a chat. If your workplace has some good policies and precedents in place, this might be all that is required. However, when (or if) you reach an agreement, you’ll need to put this in writing so each party knows what is expected of the other.”
An important part of requesting flexible work arrangements is explaining to your employer why you want them. So what should you say?
We asked Hayley, a HR Advisor in professional services, whether you should come clean with your intentions, and she says ‘it depends.’
“Your status as a parent is what makes you eligible to request flexible work in the first place, so by assumption the reason for you requesting that arrangement should be your caring responsibilities.”
However, she does point out that in certain circumstances, starting your own business can be viewed as a positive.
“Increasingly, I’m seeing more acceptance of people having some sort of side gig. Employers are starting to appreciate the skills that entrepreneurship can bring. If you feel this is the case with your employer, then you should consider discussing your intentions with them.”
Hayley does say, though, that you need to make a judgement call on what telling your employer might do for your career.
“Your employer is (hopefully!) investing in your career, so if you tell them you’re starting your own business, they’ll be less likely to invest in you, as you’re technically saying you don’t see a future with them. So you have to be careful, especially if you want to work part-time and get access to training, or a promotion, for example.”
If you don’t tell your employer ‘the truth’ can you get in trouble?
Sarah, a HR Manager at a non-for-profit, says that you can get in trouble legally, and also from a reputation perspective.
“Most employers have it written into your employment contract that you can’t start a competing business while working for them. If you do this, you’re asking for legal trouble - I wouldn’t recommend it.”
She also says that you can damage your personal brand if your employer finds out you haven’t been honest:
“If your employer saw your startup as front page news, well, that wouldn’t be a good look for you, even if your business didn’t compete with theirs. They’d have reason to doubt your honesty and integrity, which is bad news for your personal brand.”
“It’s a tough one” says Sarah.
“You need to judge it based on your situation. Just like any relationship, if there’s nothing ‘in it for them’ (i.e. the benefits of the arrangement only flows to you), you can’t expect your employer to be that supportive, and you might be penalised for your honesty. If there’s a mutual benefit, however, you should be honest, and you can expect support.”
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