Working parents or those expecting a baby are entitled to extra rights at work in the UK.
These include maternity rights, paternity leave and pay, shared parental leave and unpaid time off to look after your child – and are the same for those in same-sex relationships as those in opposite-sex relationships.
However, simply following the law may not be enough to ensure working parents feel supported and included in your workplace.
New polling, carried out for National Work Life Week (11- 15th October), indicated that outdated cultures and practices still run rife in many workplaces. Over a third (38%) of respondents said people who work the longest hours are the most respected by senior leaders in their organisation and 41% of working mothers said being a parent is holding them back from a promotion at work.
If these stats don’t prompt you to ask yourselves what your current employee experience is and where you can make improvements, a study by the charity Working Families highlighted that 85% of working parents see work-life balance as a priority and that it would influence their next choice of job.
Therefore, employers who want to retain – and attract – the best and most diverse talent should take note of those with parental responsibilities. Here are our top tips for supporting parents in your workplace:
- Get to know your parent employees
It’s difficult to make improvements if you don’t know the number of working parents in your employee population or how well they feel like they belong in your workplace culture. Employee surveys and focus groups are a proactive way to gather these vital insights.
- Lead by example
Did you know that nearly half (44%) of working parents disagree that senior leaders in their organisation are positive role models for achieving a good work-life balance? Buck the trend by encouraging leaders to share how they juggle childcare with work and how your company supports this. Training specifically for leaders in how to support parents is also beneficial.
- Offer channels for peer-to-peer support
Offer working parents the chance to form a support group or employee network so they have a dedicated space to share helpful resources and advice, and collate any feedback they’d like to share with leaders.
- Include the whole family
Organising company social events where parents are invited to bring their families helps to foster an inclusive culture.
- Be flexible
Over two-thirds (69%) of parents said they would be more likely to apply for a role advertised as flexible than one that was not. However, putting working parents aside, the pandemic has highlighted for many the importance of striking the right balance between personal and professional lives, so why not consider allowing employees to choose how they fulfil their working hours? Ask departments to coordinate their team members’ schedules to ensure there’s enough coverage at all times and offer time-tracking tools to those who feel they need them.
- Reconsider meetings
Take a look at your teams’ calendars and cut back on unnecessary meetings to help accommodate flexible working hours. If parents need to duck out of meetings to pick up children from school or take them to a medical appointment, this should be allowed without judgement.
- Encourage discussions about mental health
Look at ways to help working parents discuss the mental health impact of achieving a work-life balance, especially during the unique challenges presented by the pandemic. Welcoming these conversations helps employees understand that they’re not alone and is a great way for your business to gain honest insights into the struggles they may face. You could do this by asking an employee – if they are comfortable to do so – to share their experiences in a staff newsletter or blog, organise a coffee morning (virtually if needs be) where people can come together to talk about a specific topic, and ask leaders to create mental health action plans.
Tell Jane can help you support parents in your workforce with our training workshops. Delivered by skilled trainers with lived experiences, leaders will be able to discuss the importance of helping parents feel welcome in the workplace and how this could be achieved at your company. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.