Reflections – 20 Years of the Working Families Helpline
Published: 5 Jun 2019
To mark our 20th anniversary, we talked to Sophie Forsyth, our longest-serving team member, about her 12 ‘happy’ years volunteering on the helpline.
“A key change over the past 12 years is that it used to be only telephone advice; now we advise much more via email. And externally, we’ve seen massive changes in employment law.
“The cases that stick in my mind are where a relatively simple piece of advice makes a big difference to an outcome. I particularly remember a call where both husband and wife were prison officers. They had organised their childcare around their rotas but were having sleepless nights because their employer changed their shifts without notice. We outlined the law but, more importantly, we discussed how to talk calmly with the employer about the situation. They rang back so relieved when they had managed to reach an agreement.
“One of the things I find hardest to advise on is where parents of disabled children need time off, for instance to attend serial medical appointments. They are some of the most desperate situations and the law doesn’t offer much to help.
“I’m still volunteering because I’ve lost track of the number of people who’ve said they were just shuttling from pillar to post, failing to get the advice they needed until they found us. It’s good to feel that you are able to make a real difference.
“My favourite things about my role are the fabulous helpline team, being able to discuss ‘grey’ areas of law with colleagues who are truly expert, and feeling that I’m using my legal training to give callers a helping hand.”