Combining professional and family life represents a major challenge for many employees. Something of a balancing act that can often only be mastered through the use of flexible working time models. Especially in times of the coronavirus pandemic, childcare only works well when employees and employers work closely together. But what happens when you already have to overcome this challenge during your vocational training? For many apprentices, this is a major cause of uncertainty, as the vocational training is precisely scheduled throughout its duration: Vocational school, working in the company and exams are all the order of the day. This was also the case for Vanessa Elbers, who has been pursuing her vocational training as an industrial clerk at DMK Group since 2018. “When I found out about my pregnancy, I naturally wondered what was going to happen now. How would my employer react? Could I still continue my vocational training?” explains Vanessa Elbers. “But when I spoke to my trainer, it immediately became clear that these worries were completely unnecessary. She was happy for me and, together with her, we worked through all the questions that have since arisen for my vocational training.”
A few options quickly emerged: Take a break from training for a year and continue on a full- or part-time basis, or start again directly after maternity leave. “But it was clear to me that I didn’t want to extend the vocational training period, but rather continue full-time right after my maternity leave. What was also great was that I had the freedom to change my mind even up to a week after the birth. That’s why I never really felt any pressure.” In order to protect the mother-to-be, it was also possible to find a flexible solution up until the birth. This is because Vanessa Elbers was actually supposed to be deployed at the site in Zeven, which would have meant a longer daily commute for her. Instead, the vocational training schedule was reorganised so that she could complete the remaining time at the head office in Bremen, as well as in her home office, and then concentrate fully on the new addition to the family.
“After the birth of my daughter, I still had the opportunity to take four weeks off to spend more time with her. The first day at the company was, of course, slightly unusual, because I had spent every second with my daughter over the previous three months. Especially during this phase, my trainer took great care and responded to my situation with a lot of understanding.” After a brief spell at the Zeven site, Vanessa Elbers is now working in HR Service Administration as part of the vocational training programme, where she will also be writing her technical assignment paper. Due to the DMK Group’s safety precautions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, she is primarily working in home office. “I am very grateful and happy about the situation as a whole, how everything went and how my employer handled it. But I am even happier to be a mother now.”
For DMK Group’s Human Resources Manager, Ines Krummacker, Vanessa Elbers’ story is an example of what makes a good employer: “Communication is key. This case demonstrates that, even within seemingly rigid structures, solutions can be found together in special situations from which both sides benefit. Mutual trust is the foundation for this.”