Are your agents penalized for being a parent?

Posted on 21 September 2021
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Are your agents penalized for being a parent?

Every now and then a news story divides the nation. This September, forums, comments sections and social media were buzzing with opinions on leaving work early for childcare reasons.

The topic raised its head after an estate agent was awarded more than £180,000 in compensation by an employment tribunal, citing sex discrimination. The media widely reported on the story, carrying details of how the agency’s company director refused his sales employee’s request to leave early to collect her daughter from nursery.

Rather than a one-off incident, the agent was actually trying to formalise a regular flexible working arrangement to accommodate her childcare. Her plea to finish work at 5pm, instead of 6pm, so she could get to the nursery before it closed was, however, refused.

The agency owner said he turned down the request on the basis his agency couldn’t afford for the employee to go part time, saying “additional costs”, the “detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand” and the “inability to reorganise work among existing staff” were valid business reasons. As a result of the flexi working rejection, the agent resigned from her position.

So where do you stand on the matter?

Your point of view may depend on your status – employee, employer, parent or childless. This blog isn’t here to debate the rights and wrongs of the aforementioned case but Viewber is using this story to highlight how estate agents can accommodate all types of working requests, without compromising their business.

The idea that flexible work, or even allowing staff to leave an hour early, will cost an agency business or reduce its ability to meet customer demand is up for debate. It’s understandable that every viewing counts. If you say no to a potential buyer who wants to see a property at 5.55pm because you’ve got no staff to accompany the viewing, you may have closed the door on an offer and perhaps missed the chance to win a new instruction too.

It’s also not good for an agency’s reputation to refuse viewing requests – it can send out negative vibes and won’t please vendors if they get wind their agent is turning down potential buyers.

But parenting is hard – schools can call with zero warning, asking for children to be collected. Inset days have a habit of catching working Mums and Dads out and we know the six-week summer holiday is exceptionally hard to cover. Being a parent, however, should not be a bar to working in property and many of the best agents have children.

If your fear about flexible working – or even employing parents (yes, we know it crosses your mind) – is the thought of being left short staffed or with a lack of resources where they’re needed most, there are solutions. A call answering service is just one of them, for times when everyone is out or on another line, while Viewber provides a physical solution to accompanied viewings.

We’re an integral part of a modern approach to agency, whether that is granting shorter days, accommodating part-timers, offering compressed hours, covering annual leave, helping out in emergency situations and setting contractual hours that fit in with busy family life.

Viewbers can be booked per job and there’s no minimum requirement when using our service. We provide accompanied viewing and property visit cover that fills in your gaps. What’s more, having us onside allows agents to look after the wellbeing of staff (and their families) and recruit with compassion. If this approach is important to your agency, get in touch to find out more.

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