Karren Brady’s career advice from impossible workloads to juggling work and school

APPRENTICE star and vice-chairperson of West Ham FC Karren Brady answers all your careers questions.

Today she gives tips on handling your boss's unrealistic expectations and fitting a full-time job around your studies.

Q) MY colleague is about to go on maternity leave, but the company has said it’s not going to replace her while she is off.

This means that me and my small team will all have increased workloads for the duration of her leave – but we won’t be given a pay increase.

My colleague is expecting to return in a year, however, she is now worried that she won’t have a job to come back to. Are the company’s actions legal?

Jan, via email

A) There is no legal requirement for an employer to hire cover during an employee’s maternity leave, but asking others to absorb someone’s full-time workload is unusual and, more importantly, unrealistic.

My suggestion is to have a chat with your boss and be helpful but also honest. Beforehand, make a list of everything your colleague does, and work out how you will split the work among the team.

It may also make it blatantly obvious that they are asking too much of you!

If it is impossible to cover the workload, discuss with your boss why, and be specific about what parts of the job you think you need extra assistance with.

You should also explain how absorbing the work may have a detrimental effect on you, your team and, ultimately, the quality of your work, which will negatively impact the business.

You could offer to try to cover the work for a trial period, but ask your boss what they will do should any detrimental effects prove too much for you and the team.

You should also check your contract, as if the extra work puts you under too much pressure or increases your hours significantly, this could be in breach of it.

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Q) I LEFT school with no real qualifications, and although I’ve worked my way up the career ladder over many years, I’d like to go back to college part-time next year.

The problem is, my manager won’t even entertain the idea of me working reduced hours to fit around my studies.

I need my job to pay the bills, so studying full-time isn’t doable. How can I convince my boss to allow me to follow my dream?

Charlotte, via email

A) I think it’s great that you’ve made a decision to go back to college to advance your career. Now you just have to convince your boss!

The first thing to do is work out exactly what time off you need to do your studies.

Maybe ask the college to put you in touch with a past student who you can have a frank discussion with, so you really understand what to expect and how to cope.

Remember, there are various degrees of working part-time, so you have to decide what time off you want to ask for. Could you, for example, work more hours a day for fewer days a week?

Then speak to HR and see what your company policy is on allowing people to go part-time to study, and ask if they have done this before for anyone in the organisation.

Explain how you could carry on with your work if your hours were structured differently.

Your boss will want to know that your studying won’t affect your ability to do your job, but it’s also important to explain how your studying will benefit the business.

Finally, it might be worth exploring online the many courses and degrees you can do while still working full-time.

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