A guide on becoming a more family-friendly employer.
Welcome to our guide to help you become a more family-friendly employer.
Free childcare for parents to attend Christmas parties, is the latest in a line of novel ideas to help out working parents. As an employer, you’ll likely to want to create lasting change in any new policies or benefits that you offer to your employees. The questions you may well be asking yourself are ‘how can I ensure my company is viewed as a family-friendly employer? And is it really that important?
Firstly, let’s deal with the issue of importance. In the UK, approximately 40% of the paid employment workforce are parents with dependent children, i.e. those who are under 18, which equates to 11 million people.
Based on the December 2019 Employment and Labour market update from the National Office of Statistics, the unemployment rate among women has reached a new record low, which is great news.
Therefore, you need to ensure that your company is positioning itself as family-friendly, getting it wrong could have serious consequences on your ability to retain and attract future colleagues.
As a busy working parent, I have experienced how difficult it can be to balance the competing demands of home and work life. The following approaches are based on the experiences I have seen and found most effective in the companies I have worked in.
Whilst every business is different and has their own set of values, we hope this simple guide will provide some easy to implement ideas that are practical, actionable and ultimately will support working parents, regardless of the stage of parenthood they are at.
Before launching any support program for working parents, there are certain statutory obligations to be aware of. The Government sets out guidelines to good practise for Maternity entitlements, the basis of the law for maternity benefits is the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992.
Changes to the Equality Act, which came into force on 6 April 2017, made it compulsory for companies in Great Britain (but not Northern Ireland) with more than 250 employees to report their gender pay gap figures at the end of every financial year. This highlighted the need to address the imbalance in gender pay.
From 30 June 2014, changes to the Flexible Working Regulations mean that any employee meeting the minimum service eligibility criteria can request flexible working arrangements. Instead, all employees with at least 26 weeks’ service (and not having made a request in the previous 12 months) can request flexible working.
In addition to this, the Government has commissioned the Good Work Plan consultations. This consultation has advocated the need for any organisation with more than 250 employees to report on their family-friendly policies. A number of companies have already started to publish their policies. This is one initiative that will gain increasing momentum over the coming years.
1 – Know your company
Now that the statutory obligations are out of the way, it’s time to think about your organisation. Every business is different, they have different cultures and operate in a dynamic, ever-changing environment. It’s key to conduct a review of your organisation, before implementing any new policies. Consider the following questions but try to ensure that any new policies are aligned to the overall company’s strategy.
We’ve listed a host of questions to get you thinking about your company
- What is your company’s key strategic goal?
- Where and how do you operate?
- What challenges are you facing?
- How many working parents do you have?
- What hours do they work?
- Is there a gender gap in terms of hours and pay?
- What support policies do you already have in place?
- What support do your employees say they would like to have?
- What support do your competitors offer?
There are various ways in which to gather the views from your current parent population. These could be through annual performance reviews or surveys, informal conversations or discussions at support groups, if they exist. Research such as this will help to identify the actual pain points faced by parents in your organisation, as opposed to the perceived ones, which in turn will lead to better and more effective solutions.
2 – Become a market maker and offer a new workplace solution for childcare
Returning to work after a period of reduced pay can be challenging. The upfront costs of childcare required to return to work can be daunting. The closure of the Government Voucher scheme has developed a two-tier system between those who can access employer-led support and those that can’t.
To overcome this division, a simple scheme such as Catapillr’s childcare workplace solution could be implemented. The Childcare Cash Advance Scheme can be quickly and easily set up and tailored to the specific requirements of each employer, further information can be found here. The scheme has automated and streamlined the process of providing financial support to employees to help pay for their childcare costs. In addition, access to Catapillr’s helpful content and financial wellbeing tools are provided for free.
3 – Review key parent events and have policies in place to support
Many working parents, particularly Mothers, would welcome the opportunity to discuss their concerns about returning to work. The opportunity to do so would greatly help with the wellbeing of parents and the transition back to work.
An open programme to help parents back to work would again encourage a mutual dialect showing an understanding of the challenges of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
A policy of open dialogues, regular contact and transitions days is easy to implement and once shared with all managers would help those parents either on or about to take maternity or paternity leave.
4 – Flexible maternity leave payments
A number of organisations have recently introduced a new policy to spread out maternity leave payments whilst an employee is on leave. The idea is that an employer calculates the total amount of maternity payable and then spreads this out equally throughout the employee’s leave period. This again is a simple idea but is very effective in supporting parents through a key time of their child’s early life.
5 – Flexible holiday approach with mandatory leave
Another key policy to implement, which is key to a healthy work/life balance, is to show as much flexibility as possible with an employee’s holiday booking requests. Conversely, it’s just as important to ensure there is a strict approach to actually enforcing that an employee takes their allocated annual leave allowance. Taking time away from work and spending it with family is key to ensuring a happy and healthy workforce.
6 – Publicise the available support
Publicising support for working parents is crucial to developing a family-friendly culture. Regular communication, easy access to policy documents and support is key. The establishment of a parent support group could be a great way for employees to have an outlet for their concerns and a forum to collectively put together suggestions for senior management. These groups empower working parents to raise their concerns and can provide a positive outcome for parental wellbeing, as well as a forum to ensure all of the steps being taken to support working parents are being widely distributed and hence help your company to become a more family-friendly employer.
The importance of employee wellbeing has been increasingly highlighted across all industries. Being able to offer additional enhancements such as open days, family days or access to additional days’ holidays for emergency childcare situations can all add to how valued staff feel within the company.
Any company wishing to succeed needs to ensure they have developed a range of family-friendly policies, which makes great business sense considering the size of the working parent population in any typical organisation. Developing policies will have a positive impact on your retention of staff, their output and commitment to their individual role. In return, the cost of recruitment will be lowered, staff sick days reduced, and overall productivity increased.
We hope you have enjoyed reading our guide to becoming a more family-friendly employer.