Part-time and Flexible Work; What's the Difference and Why is it So Important?


Jane RVN veterinary-nurses

There is a need to say out loud that part-time and flexible working patterns are as valuable to the vet industry as full-time roles. In fact, in my experience they can create employees who are more bonded to the employer, bring new ideas and ways of working and are just as committed to the business if not more so.

How can I say this? Because I am one of these people. Yes, I work part time in one role and have flexible working in another role, and it works. It more than works; it has changed my life and given me opportunities that I would not have had if focusing on working in a full-time role.

I’m sure you all think ‘that’s great for you, but it only works in special situations for special people’… I too have worked in places where if you’re face fits, these magical roles appear for you and if it doesn’t then you can be as flexible as you can be, but nothing will work for your employer.

This can be disheartening, so let’s start with the fact and fiction of part-time and flexible working.

Firstly, ANYONE can request a change to their working hours, there are some criteria you need to meet but you don’t need to be returning from maternity!

  1. Aren’t they the same thing?

No, and it helps to make this clear when deciding what you need from your work life. Work is considered part-time when the employee works less than a full-time employee. Unison say there is no official definition but the usual working week is 35 hours – no eye rolling at the back there. This why in the Vet world we often see vet roles in particular advertised as ‘part-time’ when the person in question is working 35 hours a week … because the other vets in practice are working a 48 hour week.

So if part time work in a vets isn’t actually part time (in the real world) then what is flexible working.

Flexible working is not necessarily a reduction in working hours, but it can be combined with this – what it does is allow the hours worked to vary from other employees. This may mean earlier or later starts, or working a combination of longer or shorter days instead of the same hours every day.

  1. Myths of part-time or flexible working time

You are entitled to  get exactly the same benefits:

  • Well, this depends on the benefits, something like a healthcare scheme does not need to be offered to all staff in the same  way, part time staff may be asked to contribute to be able to access it

You must get the same treatment for:

  • Pay rates
  • Pension
  • Holidays
  • Training and development
  • Opportunities for career breaks 

  1. How can we make these options work for us?

Know your boundaries

This might sound a dit defensive but before you explore the options know what your negotiable and non-negotiable are

  • What’s your physical ability
  • What is your available family care

Hours the practice needs staffing

This isn’t quite a non-negotiable as vet practices are open quite long enough but if you find your opportunities for working fall out with the times your current work place is open then you may need to consider what role you are doing and/or what another work place could give you.

You may get more flexibility from an employer if you can combine nursing with administrative tasks – with practice software many admin tasks can be done wherever you are and whenever you are free.

Whenever I talk about part time or flexible working I love to herald the great fact that vet nursing is a 24/7, 365 days a year role. If you can access the practice, there is work out there for you and if you can’t, there are some home working opportunities too.

I’m continuously astounded by the many great vet nurses I know that work nights, weekends and bank holidays to fit work in with their family commitments. I take my hat off to you and thank you for providing for our pets. 

  1. Put together your own proposal

Now we have an idea of the parameters we’re working with in why not set out your own proposal for your practice? Consider their needs, your needs and be prepared to negotiate but set out what you can offer.

The RVN is a rare species and ‘You’ for some of the time is better than ‘No You’ at all – for you, the employer and our patients - I promise.

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