Photography by Julian Dodd
Position: Head of external affairs, Age UK
Job-share: Work three days a week each, crossover day on Wednesday
It was a conversation in the kitchen that sparked the idea for Hannah Pearce and Angela Kitching’s job share at Age UK. ‘We were making tea at work and I turned to Hannah and said, "I’ve got some news: I’m pregnant." She said, "Guess what? I’m pregnant too." Our babies were due within two weeks of each other,’ says Kitching. ‘It occurred to us then and there that job- sharing could work for us.’
The pair first met in 2006 at what was then Age Concern. Pearce was a government affairs officer and recruited Kitching to the role of political researcher. When Pearce left the charity 18 months later to do VSO in Vanuatu, Kitching was promoted into her role.
Pearce went on to work for Breakthrough Breast Cancer and children’s rights organisation ECPAT UK but rejoined the newly-merged Age UK in 2011 as a freelance consultant, working alongside Kitching. This time round, they were equals. Mid-way through their maternity leave, in August 2012, they met up and put together a justification document for a job share.
‘We laid out the business pros of keeping our joint experience and knowledge within Age UK. But we knew we were pitching to an organisation that would be open to job-sharing,’ says Kitching. ‘Michelle Mitchell was heading up the charity at the time; she’d previously chaired the Fawcett Society, promoting gender equality and women’s rights at work, and was absolutely committed to keeping women in the workforce.’
The big appeal of job-sharing for Kitching and Pearce was that it allowed them to spend time at home with their young children without radically changing their careers. ‘I know a lot of working mothers who miss out on opportunities because they’re part-time; they don’t go for promotions or they miss out on new projects. They often feel restricted or disengaged,’ says Pearce. ‘Job-sharing takes away those issues.’
Pearce and Kitching started job-sharing at the beginning of 2013, just after their kids’ first birthdays, and have been jointly promoted twice since then. As a double act, they have consistently secured Age UK’s position as one of the top-10 most effective influencing charities at Westminster (as rated by MPs) and have helped to increase funding for social care services by £2bn. Although the pair separate line management (they each have four direct reports) they share everything else – including double-sided business cards and a joint email signature.
‘We’re not just colleagues, we’re close friends,’ says Pearce, who is godmother to Kitching’s youngest son Thomas. ‘We have a huge amount of respect for each other professionally and personally. I don’t think this would work if we didn’t trust each other implicitly.’
For Kitching, job-sharing isn’t just a short-term solution; it’s become an essential set-up for her family. Thomas, born in October 2014, has complex disabilities. ‘Besides respite care, it’s not really possible for anyone to look after him other than myself and my husband, who now does a job share too. It means that one of us can always be at home with Thomas.
‘This shows other people what’s possible,’ she adds. ‘Real life happens. You shouldn’t have to drop out of work because of it.’