'Mommy shift' taps into new labour pool

Date: OCT 22nd, 2007

Topic: Franchise News

Shannon Proudfoot, CanWest News Service

Published: 7:01 am

A Canadian company has discovered one potential solution to a looming shortage of workers: wooing mothers back to work with schedules that match their children's school hours.

The "mommy shift" at Nurse Next Door Home Healthcare Services stretches from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., giving mothers time to see their children off to school and pick them up afterward. Employees with the home care service for seniors are matched with clients in their own neighbourhoods and allowed to take time off whenever their children are not in school.

"We're targeting stay-at-home moms who want to take part in other meaningful work while their kids are at school," says Arif Abdulla, communications manager for the company. "It's opened up a pretty big labour market for us, it's helped us address that challenge."

Nancy Peirce of Surrey, B.C., is now working the mommy shift at Nurse Next Door after failing to find a retail position that could accommodate her family schedule.

Nancy Peirce of Surrey, B.C., is now working the mommy shift at Nurse Next Door after failing to find a retail position that could accommodate her family schedule.

Four children aged 16, 14, 13 and nine mean Nancy Peirce has a full workload in her Surrey, B.C., household. She says the Mommy Shift gives her the income to help finance her children's extracurricular activities as well as the time to ferry them back and forth.

"I used to be a preschool day-care worker, and I just wanted to do it for my own kids rather than pay someone to do what I like to do," she says.

Before starting at Nurse Next Door last month, Peirce applied for several retail jobs, but her inability to work evenings and weekends meant she never got an interview. Some businesses have responded to people's need to balance work and family life, she says, but others still offer little flexibility.

"They don't understand that if you're supposed to be finished at five, it could be because you had to pick up kids at day care or kids at school," she says.

Peirce previously worked as a home support worker for mentally handicapped clients, so she has some background in the field. For those who don't, Nurse Next Door offers an in-house training program that qualifies employees to provide basic companionship and care.

Canada's aging demographics are "screaming" for solutions like this, says Abdulla. Nurse Next Door has several franchise locations in British Columbia and plans to expand to major cities across Canada next year.

Instead of waiting for companies like Nurse Next Door to respond to their needs, many mothers have struck out on their own as "mompreneurs," says Kathryn Bechthold, a Calgary-based publisher of The Mompreneur Magazine. Four in five new entrepreneurs are women, she says, pointing to a growing desire to control their own work schedules.

In an increasingly competitive labour market, smart companies will find ways to accommodate these needs and attract talented employees, she says.

"It's not just about the money anymore, it's about flexibility, time that can be done from home, the ability to work around your family's priorities first," Bechthold says.

"I think corporations are getting more understanding of that (but) I don't think they're there yet."

The Mommy Shift is a good fit for staff and clients alike, says co-founder John DeHart. At an average age of 86, most clients don't need specialized medical care, but rather companionship, and help with daily living activities such as bathing, dressing and light housekeeping, often during daytime hours.

"When we get our first daddy, then we'll probably change the name to the Mommy and Daddy Shift," he says. "I expect at some point we'll get a daddy."