How to better support working parents

Here are six ways to cater to the needs of working parents

Dual-income households are now the norm in the UK with the percentage of both parents working full-time increasing. So how can employers support this group better? Here are six points to remember. 

1. Flexibility is key

This is essential to creating a family-friendly work environment, and needs to be more than just giving employees the option of 9-5 or 10-6. A truly flexible workplace realises that staff can be just as productive at home as they can be inside the office. Obviously, there are some jobs that require continuous interaction with colleagues, but those that do not can be done from home at least once a week.

2. Flexibility is still key

Flexibility is letting staff that work from home participate in Skype or Zoom meetings instead of expecting them to be physically present. Flexibility is introducing the relevant technology and software that staff can utilise to ensure they’re all on the same page, even if they’re not in the same office. Flexibility is creating an environment that values accomplishments over hours. If someone has x, y, and z to do over a week, and finishes it all in four days do you really need them for the entire fifth day? Why not let them go home early so they can pick up their child from school for a change? This level of flexibility requires flexible thinking, not just flexible hours.

3. Dads are parents, too

UK fathers work some of the longest hours in the whole of Europe. Organisations need to recognise that fathers are parents too, and as such, provide better options for them. This can include longer paternity leave and giving them the option to work flexibly, too.

4. Keep work-related activities to working hours

This may not be able to be done all the time, but where possible, keep meetings/team-building days/events/conferences/AGMs/training, etc, within working hours. Expecting your staff to stay late may be the difference between seeing their children just once that day and not seeing them at all. The same goes for part-time staff who may leave earlier to collect their children from school. If you know they leave at 2:30 pm every day, don’t schedule an activity for 3pm.

5. Provide childcare

It may not be feasible to offer a fully-fledged crèche in your workspace like Goldman Sachs has done in the City of London, but what you can do is offer childcare at any out-of-hours events. Before you start worrying about DBS checks and hiring nannies, there are various companies that can provide it all for you. Nurseries and babysitters are expensive, and you should take this into consideration when expecting parents to attend evening or weekend activities. Providing an onsite crèche will boost attendance amongst parents and give those who may not be able to afford additional childcare the chance to attend.

6. Change the culture

You can have all the right policies in place, but unless you change your organisational culture, they won’t mean a thing; your employees will be too embarrassed to leave on time when everyone else is staying behind or too ashamed to take another day of leave because their child has fallen ill. Take the lead yourself and encourage your staff to leave on time. Of course, there will always be exceptions when there are special projects and deadlines looming, but make that the exception, not the rule.

In this article, you learned that:

  • Organisations need to recognise that fathers are parents too and provide better options for them
  • Budget permitting, offering childcare at out-of-hours work events could encourage parents to participate
  • Keep meetings including team-building days and training within working hours to encourage working parents to attend and feel that they are not being excluded

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