Flexible working helped me be a hands-on dad

Dayle Jones from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency talks about how flexible working enabled him to share custody of his sons.


Dayle Jones [Jonah] says the flexible working he has with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has been “a godsend”, meaning he is able to share custody of his two sons.

In return, the Agency has been able to keep an experienced member of staff who is able to focus 100% on work when he is there and doesn’t have financial worries about childcare costs.

Jonah has worked for the Agency for over 12 years and moved from the operational side of the Belfast Coastguard in Bangor to the administrative team two years ago. His marriage had broken down and he wanted to have joint custody of his two sons. That meant he needed more flexible working.

His youngest son is autistic and Jonah says it is particularly important that he has as much stability as possible. He now has his sons living with him every other week.

Longer and shorter weeks

Jonah’s manager was very supportive and allowed him to work a longer week when he doesn’t have his sons and a school day when he does. That mean he works an average of 37.5 hours a week, starting at 8am each day and finishing at 5pm on the longer weeks and 3pm on the shorter ones.

There is also an informal understanding that he will work late on one or two of the days in the week he doesn’t have the boys. Sometimes he does more hours in the longer week so he can bank days off for things like inset days and parents teacher meetings. This is important to him as his younger son is at a special school and occasionally he needs to speak to his teachers and childcare can be difficult as well as expensive to arrange for him.

Jonah’s work pattern is also good for the Agency. The coastguard watch system operates on a shift pattern of two days from 6.30am to 6.30pm, two nights from 6.30pm to 6.30am and then four days off. The later hours mean Jonah has crossover time with the night shift and he says this works out to everyone’s advantage. His work involves supporting coastguards’ administrative needs, such as ensuring they have the right equipment, booking their travel and accommodation if they are on a course and fixing equipment. By working late he can talk to the coastguards face to face and get things sorted more quickly.

“Having been on the watch I know what it’s like and that sometimes you don’t see any admin people for four to eight days,” says Jonah.

Give and take

He also has the flexibility of being able to work from home if he needs to and over the summer holidays he can use overtime to work from 10.15am to 3.30pm around holiday schemes. In return, he is flexible and happy to do extra hours when needed.

“It’s all about give and take,” he says. “It means I am more engaged and committed.”

Jonah adds: “By allowing me to have a better home life, I am not rushing all the time and stressed. In this day and age it is no longer the women doing all the childcare. There are different family set-ups and both parents are often working. If stuff is settled at home it increases your productivity at work.”

He says the impact on his life of the flexibility he has is priceless. “I would not have been able to get joint custody without it,” he says. “The flexibility has helped me so much. I do not have to worry about childcare costs and about not seeing the boys as much as I want to. It has made us a complete family.”

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